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Books are still big business but authors earnings plummet

By: stagedoorscribbler - December 10, 2018

Dan Snow

As you seek out those bargains to buy a book for your loved ones at Christmas just spare at thought for the authors.

Believe it or not they’re appalling rewarded for their efforts. A recent survey from the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society, found that writers' average earnings are less than £10,500-a-year. And that, when adjusted for inflation, represents an astonishing 42 per cent drop in earnings for professional authors since 2005.  

And if that sounds shocking you should  perhaps also bear in mind that female authors only earn about 75 per cent of the income of their male counterparts. 

The JK Rowlings of this world are very much the exception rather than the rule and figures for last year show that the UK’s professional authors take home an average  income that is considered well below the Minimum Income Standard’s index for a socially acceptable standard of living for a singe person”  As for those bargains?  They often reduce further the potential for author’ earnings.

Society of Authors president Philip Pullman was quoted as saying that the fact that publishers' profits are growing at a time when authors' incomes are falling speaks for itself.  

”We're all suffering from a general degradation of standards: from the sense that it's OK to exploit people without much power, because no-one cares and no-one will do anything about it," he said. "The technological means of making indescribably vast fortunes from the internet have come into being at a time when the general assumption in public life is that greed is good. No-one seems to feel shame any more.”

One of the problems  it would seem is online business models whose sheer power  and size enables them to undercut the bricks and mortar bookshops and even the authors themselves.

 Our good friend the historian, writer and broadcaster Dan Snow tweeted the following just a few days ago:

'"So Amazon are now selling my new book for £6. Which is cheaper than I can buy them for myself from my publisher. Madness." 

Food for thought!