Sad News for Writers

Mark Lawrence posted a link to a Guardian article on his Facebook thread earlier today that announces a bit of sad news for writers.

Here’s the important bit:

According to a survey of almost 2,500 working writers – the first comprehensive study of author earnings in the UK since 2005 – the median income of the professional author in 2013 was just £11,000, a drop of 29% since 2005 when the figure was £12,330 (£15,450 if adjusted for inflation), and well below the £16,850 figure the Joseph Rowntree Foundation says is needed to achieve a minimum standard of living. The typical median income of all writers was even less: £4,000 in 2013, compared to £5,012 in real terms in 2005, and £8,810 in 2000 …. [T]he survey also found that in 2013, just 11.5% of professional authors – those who dedicate the majority of their time to writing – earned their incomes solely from writing. This compares with 2005, when 40% of professional authors said that they did so.

Why the decline? Well, the theory is that the decline in book sales leads to a decline in booksellers. And looking at national reading habits, a recent Pew survey says the number of books read by the average American is holding constant, but the specifics are shifting–fewer readers are buying more books. My belief is that when this pattern is repeated over a period of years, it becomes a positive feedback loop, leading to even fewer books and writers and readers.

The article is limited to UK authors. And, from what I can gather, the respondents were novelists not bloggers, freelancers, reporters, etc. (although this may be an incorrect assumption on my part). Nevertheless, I would wager that the results would be roughly similar if such writers were included in the survey. Having looked for freelance work, it’s incredibly sad–albeit understandable when looking at the budgets of magazines, newspapers, and websites–how many editors want to pay very little if anything. The worst offer, of course, is to be paid “in exposure,” to which I always think, “People die of exposure.”

So sad news just about any way you cut it, unless people start reading more books, newspapers, and magazines, and I don’t know how to encourage that or to encourage people to buy from independent booksellers (which often mean paying more than Amazon or other online retailers). No wonder writers like to drink.