Most British writers barely scraping a living

Not everybody can be J K Rowling...

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The average author makes just £11,000 per year.

If you dream of earning millions from writing the next Harry Potter - dream on. New research from the Authors' Licensing and Collection Society (ALCS) shows that the average author makes just £11,000 per year.

And there's very few of them about: while in 2005, 40 percent of professional authors said they earned their entire living this way, today the figure's just 11.5 percent. This is hardly surprising, says the ALCS, given just how badly-paid the profession is.


The typical income is now less than £1,000 per month - a dramatic fall from 2005, when it was £12,330 a year, or £15,450 in real terms. This doesn't even leave them earning the Minimum Income Standard (MIS), set by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation at £16,850.

"These are concerning times for writers," says Owen Atkinson, chief executive of ALCS. "This rapid decline in both author incomes and in the numbers of those writing full-time could have serious implications for the economic success of the creative industries in the UK."

The ALCS contrasts this poverty with the success of the creative industries - now estimated by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to be worth £71.4 billion per year to the UK economy.

"If writers are to continue making their irreplaceable contribution to the UK economy, they need to be paid fairly for their work," says Atkinson. "This means ensuring clear, fair contracts with equitable terms and a copyright regime that support creators and their ability to earn a living from their creations".

Some writers are profiting from self-publishing - now the third-most important sector financially, after books and magazines but ahead of newspapers and broadcast media. Around a quarter of writers have self-published a work, with 86 percent saying they'd do it again.

Of course, some authors do make a fortune - JK Rowling, for example, is believed to be worth as much as £570 million. But she's not the highest-earning, according to Forbes. That honour goes to EL James, creator of the Fifty Shades books, who made $95 million last year. Crime author James Patterson took second place with $91 million, followed by Hunger Games creator Suzanne Collins with $55 million; Fox news presenter and writer of historical fiction Bill O'Reilly, with $28 million, and romantic author Danielle Steel with $26 million.

But, warns poet Wendy Cope: "Most people know that a few writers make a lot of money. This survey tells us about the vast majority of writers, who don't."

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