The All Party Parliamentary Writers Group Calls for Immediate Action to Reverse Steep Decline in Writers Incomes

From The Bookseller:

The All Party Parliamentary Writers Group (APWG) has called for “immediate action to reverse steep decline in writers’ incomes”, following its investigation into author earnings.

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The parliamentary group has proposed a series of recommendations to ensure better support for authors, while also improving government engagement with creators; protecting the success of the UK publishing industry beyond Brexit and ensuring fairness in the bookselling market.

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There was an almost universal response to the Inquiry that writers are earning less than before – echoing last year’s survey from the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society which showed writers’ average earnings as dropping to £10,500-a-year, a fall of 15% in real terms since 2013.

The APWG report reads: “Almost all of the responses to the Inquiry suggested a reduction in authors’ earnings; this was evidenced in the findings from ALCS’ surveys of 2005, 2013 and 2017 and supported by the responses to the Inquiry identifying a range of causes for this,” the report reads. While its authors concede that “much of the evidence suggests that this issue is an international trend” it also described the changed royalties structures following the dissolution of the Net Book Agreement (NBA) as “a major issue”.

Authors’ additional duties beyond writing was also cited as a concern. “Authors, particularly those writing for children, typically subsidise their income with visits to schools, community centres and literary festivals; in multiple submissions to the Inquiry authors stated this is no longer an option. Authors said that some schools commission fewer visits due to budgetary constraints, even when these visits can be part of a varied and interactive education. A particular concern for authors is festivals where authors are expected to speak for free.”

Contributors also raised concerns that a decline in authors’ earnings could discourage new writers from taking up the profession, exacerbating the lack of diversity in the publishing and creative industries.

Poets in particular are struggling to survive financially, the report said. “[It was] suggested that authors of poetry are finding it particularly difficult to maintain a livelihood… smaller poetry publishers that nurture mid-list authors are closing their lists, including Enitharmon Press which closed its list in 2017 after losing Arts Council England funding.”

“Poor financial return from writing for compilations means that poetry and short story writing are less viable as an entry point to professional writing… Poetry writers also rely on paid event appearances that are becoming rarer.”

Consolidation amongst publishers could also cause problems for writers along, it was argued. There was anxiety that “consolidation of consolidation of publishers could lead to greater negotiating power over authors in a market with less choice and competition for their IP; while a clear contributor to the consolidation of publishers is the state of the bookselling market”. Amazon was singled out as a concern because of how its discounts have affected publishers’ behaviour, leading to “an impact across the value chain of publishing”.

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Support for authors should also be central, the APPG argued, through changes to tax and benefit rules. “Authors could be supported by being able to offset the cost of childcare against their income, or the cost of training in ‘new skills’ such as self-publishing and marketing,” the report reads.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

20 thoughts on “The All Party Parliamentary Writers Group Calls for Immediate Action to Reverse Steep Decline in Writers Incomes”

  1. Apologies to all foreign readers who wasted their valuable time reading this. What they say is entirely predictable and pretty much what you’d expect when a self selected group of political nonentities get together to pontificate about something that concerns them. Some of it makes sense but their solutions – other than getting rid of VAT on e-books – seem vague and not likely to be effective. I’d like to see them call for a competition authority investigation into the publishing oligopoly with restrictions and term limits of rights grabs (it’ll never happen).

    “The All Party Parliamentary Writers Group” sounds important but pretty much any group of MPs or members of the House of Lords can form a group, they just have to decide they want one, agree who their officers are and stick it on the official register. Then they publish reports and put out press releases.

    • Well, I don’t know about other foreign readers – but here in the States we have quite similar “interest” groups among our politicians.

      The main purpose here is to have long lunches and dinners at expensive restaurants, all at the expense of the taxpayers. I suspect it is much the same in the mother country…

  2. I suspect lots of the folks in the group cited as earning an average of 10k have additional earnings enabling them to eat.

    If they are not bright enough to get an additional job, who cares how little they make? It’s a choice.

  3. Yeah, they’re really gonna change things around for all writers everywhere. Yes, indeedy. Or maybe just the UK. Yup.

    Actually, what they’re actually doing is peeing away their irrreplaceable time on Planet Earth for nada. What they’re doing is smug, fatuous, self-congratulatory posing. They will accomplish exactly squat. Except, perhaps, pulling the wool over some ignorant voters’ eyes.

    But, hey, nobody is ever *required* to connect with reality. Although that helps a lot as we go through life. (Venal, conniving politicians excepted!)

  4. What decline? With more writers skipping the slush piles and going indie more writers are making more money than ever before. Wait – those staying with trad-pub are making less? Then that’s their fault for not adapting with the times.

    (I’m always amused that these things never ever figure in the number of books that trad-pub rejected and the writer therefore got $0.)

    • Not that shocking.

      Leaving aside the cynical explanations, how would you keep track of that number?

      • No way to as the publishers will never admit how large their slush piles are – nor how many ‘good’ books they rejected because they simply didn’t have enough slots for them.

        Then there’s the books that tried many times before finally getting a slot (trying to remember but I think that poor selling book about Harry Potter took over eighty slush piles before it came out on top.)

        I’m just saying that if these idiots want to play with numbers then they should play with ‘all’ the numbers (books offered) and not just the number of slots the publisher filled (and paid the writer.)

  5. Not sure what they could do about it really. There are fewer people reading, and more people writing, than there used to be. So a smaller amount of income is being shared among more people. But if the government are going to start giving grants to writers to make up for it, I’ll have some of that.

  6. The simplest solution is to pass a law requiring every adult to buy a certain minimum value of books annually — with severe penalties for non-compliance

    • Dunno about the UK but in the US there is precedent for forcing people to buy a commercial product or pay a $700 added tax.

        • Pretty much the case, but not strictly true. You do not need to pay if you “never watch or record programmes on any channel as they’re being shown on TV or live on an online TV service, and never download or watch BBC programmes on iPlayer – live, catch up or on demand”.

          The rip off bit is “any channel” as it means I still have to pay even if I never watch BBC but do watch other channels. I can watch as much non BBC on demand programming as I like but probably not the broadcast cable TV I’m paying a subscription for.

          I rarely watch BBC these days but at £12.88 per month I can’t be bothered to get too get up about paying this.

          • Apologies for the incoherent last sentence: autocorrect strikes again. It should have read “to get too het up about paying this.”

    • I would like to sign up for “performance actor” please. My piece, “boring man at work” is severely underappreciated.

  7. I didn’t like the idea of being bedeviled all the time about money and I didn’t for a moment like the idea of poverty, so I went to work like anybody else and kept at it for a good many years.

    — Wallace Stevens, on having a day job while writing poetry on the side

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