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
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.