ALCS report finds massive disparity in authors’ earnings

The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society has published the results of its report into the money made by professional authors, and none of it will likely come as a surprise to the vast majority of writers forced to subsidise their work through a variety of endurable-to-menial day jobs. Based on research carried out by Queen Mary University of London, The Business of Being an Author: A Survey of Authors’ Earnings and Contracts finds that 58% of all the money earned by professional authors is earned by the top 10% of those authors, resulting in a massive inequality of wealth between that 10% and the remaining 90%.

The average income for a professional author – defined as someone who spends at least 50% of their work time as a self-employed writer – was just £11,000 a year, £5,000 below the £16,000 deemed necessary to sustain a socially acceptable standard of living. The top 10%, meanwhile, all earn above £60,000 a year, with the top 5% each making more than £100,000 a year – a massive 42.3% of the total money made annually by professional authors. By comparison, the bottom 50% of all writers – including those who do not claim writing as a primary occupation – earn only 7% of all author earnings.

The report suggests ‘that writing is a profession where only a handful of successful authors make a very good living while most do not’, a claim backed up by the above statistics, and by its further claim that close to 90% of authors are unable to make a living solely from their writing. The last decade has seen a significant decline in the number of authors working without other income streams, with 40% of those surveyed in 2005 able to live off their writing dropping to 11.5% by 2013.

The report also revealed a notable gender gap amongst professional authors, with women earning on average around four-fifths of what men make.