How Much Do Writers Earn?

Last week’s blog post left us all buoyed by the number of authors who published their first book after the age of 40.  Maybe there is hope and it’s never too late. Time to hit the keyboard and get writing. Well, this week, reality bites. The latest research, by ALCS (Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society) shows that full-time authors earn less than minimum wage and the gap between the big name writers and the low earners is growing.

It’s hard to know how much authors earn. It’s not like we get job adverts to gauge the going rate – best-selling author required, must have way with words, in return for three-book deal, £20,000 advance and potential to earn £150k per year. That doesn’t happen.

The only figures we see are the millions bandied around the likes of J.K. Rowling and

how much do authors earn?

Please sir, can we have some more? The cries of poorly paid authors everywhere.

Stephen King or the latest fan fic made good, such as Fifty Shades of Grey. Apparently, Rowling earned $14 (£9.4m) in 2014 alone. Meanwhile, the average professional author earns under £11,000 per year, whilst the minimum living income is £16,000. Well, call me fussy, but starving in a garret isn’t as chic as it used to be.

Although I don’t begrudge the top earners their phat loot, the gap is growing between the very top of the tree and the low-earning majority. Surely, there’s a middle ground to be struck. And when the likes of Will Self and Philip Pullman, alongside award-winning authors are seeing their earnings shrink, something must be wrong.

The lesson seems to be; write for the love of it, not for the money.

Here’s a pretty picture to soften the blow regarding those figures. I promise to be cheerier, next week.

how much do writers make?

The latest ALCS figures on author earnings make for gloomy reading.




5 thoughts on “How Much Do Writers Earn?

  1. The thing is to manage expectations. I write because that’s what I do. I’ve always done it. I did it as a child, I did it when I had other jobs, and I still do it. The best advice I can give any author is marry well.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Alas, that’s the reality for most of us in the market right now. It might very well change in the future, but right now that’s where it’s at. I see it as an issue of supply and demand. There is a glut of free content. The way a lot of fiction writers made their living in the past was by writing reviews, essays, and short stories for magazines. Most of those magazines no longer exist or if they do their audiences are much smaller. Most people read the equivalent of that material online now for free or for very cheap subscription rates. I’m currently reading the letters of Ross McDonald and Eudora Welty and it’s amazing to see how the industry has changed since their heyday. For better or worse, we seem to be living in a maximum output, minimum cost situation right now. There is something to be said for the cream rising to the top, but that’s really only for cream that appeals to the broadest section of the population. We are in the ultimate age of niche marketing and what the long term effects of that are is anyone’s guess.


  2. Only 11.5% of authors live solely off their writing? . . . Boy, I knew there weren’t many, but to see it in writing is like a reality check – a reality check to end all reality checks. And that data was collected a few years ago, so it could be even less now (but hopefully it’s more).

    Writing is an extremely congested profession, and one that is easily accessible, meaning many people are trying to do it. The obvious issue with that is that becomes even harder, if not near impossible, for any author, including some of the best and most dedicated, to get a share of the cake. Definitely write for the love, but just don’t expect that love to pay the bills.

    Liked by 1 person

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