From The Guardian:
As publishing prepares for the Christmas rush, with a blizzard of titles due for launch this week on “Super Thursday”, a European commission report has shown that life is less than super for many authors in the UK, with average annual incomes for writers languishing at £12,500.
This figure is just 55% of average earnings in the UK, coming in below the minimum wage for a full-time job at £18,000 and well below the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s minimum income standard of £17,100.
In an industry that is becoming increasingly unequal, those at the bottom of the income distribution continue to struggle. Only half of the 317 UK authors who responded to the survey said writing was their main source of income, with respondents who offered a figure reporting total earnings from their latest book averaging at £7,000.
The survey confirms a picture of steady decline in author incomes that was revealed in a 2015 survey published by the Society of Authors (SoA). While the publishing industry has seen revenues begin to rise, with sales up 1.3% in 2015 to £4.4bn, median incomes for authors (a measure that better reflects the experience of most authors) were down 29% in real terms in the last decade.
According to the writer Lucinda Hawksley, who sits on the SoA management committee, initiatives to make life fairer for authors are “utterly necessary”.
“I know from personal experience how difficult it is to be creative when panicking about the state of one’s finances and worrying about the rent [and] trying to meet a publisher’s demands,” Hawksley said. “My books have been well-received and plentiful, which might be assumed to bring in a healthy income, but it is impossible to support myself by writing alone.”
. . . .
A comparison of the legal protections enjoyed by writers across the continent put the UK and Ireland at the bottom of the ranking, with the UK also performing poorly in a measure of authors’ power in collective bargaining. . . . [A] comparison between two countries with the highest number of responses, the UK and Germany, could suggest “that a more protective legal framework may have a positive effect for the authors’ average income”.
In a world where the digital revolution is opening up a bewildering array of new ways for publishers to make money out of writers’ work, the report argues for written contracts that specify where and how an author’s work is to be used. It adds that rights should be limited to uses that are known or foreseeable.
. . . .
“This detailed study shows, yet again, that authors are disadvantaged by an unfair playing field,” Solomon said, “and conclusively demonstrates that simple legal remedies such as controlling the term and scope of contracts can have a positive effect on authors’ earnings, which remain woefully low.”
Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Dave and several others for the tip.