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.