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