Updated: Jan 21
A steady decline in writers earnings means authors can no longer support themselves through their art. This sad fact has resulted in many writers taking part-time jobs or writing about topics they have no interest in. One of the most significant factors for the low-earnings is unfair royalties from publishers.
Declining Writers Earnings A recent survey by the Authors Guild shows sobering statistics about the annual income of writers. The 5,067 respondents earned a median income of just $6,080 which is a 42% decline from 2009. Book earnings alone averaged at $3,100, which shows how difficult it is for writers to make a living. Literary fiction authors have suffered the worst, which impacts readers too. Studies show fiction improves our empathy and cognitive functions. Low earnings mean writers aren’t likely to commit their time to create a novel which affects younger generations. The day’s of Harry Potter and Roald Dahl seem to be behind us, and a once profitable profession is becoming impossible. Many authors are choosing to self-publish to control their profits, but the earnings from Ebooks don’t enable writers to live off their earnings. While there are some success stories, authors often need to create a series of Ebooks to see any measurable return. While some people enjoy self-publishing, others hate the marketing aspects involved. To self-publish a book means writers must do their own marketing. This takes a lot of time, and many authors don’t want the responsibility of putting an effective marketing strategy in place. Tips from content creators can help self-published authors promote their book, but it’s a complicated process. A report from Bowker in 2017 showed the popularity of self-publishing. Over 1 million titles were self-published that year, but we can attribute low sales to the sheer volume of books available. There are no requirements to self-publish a book, so anyone can write and promote their work. Celebrity Culture They’re on billboards, magazine covers and even make their own perfumes. Yes, celebrity culture is bigger than ever. Just go into a bookstore, and you’ll see rows of celebrity biographies on the shelves. There has also been an increase of famous people writing children’s books, which is damaging established authors. Publishers know that if a celebrities name is on a book cover, it’s more likely to sell. Agents know they can boost their client’s fame and income by convincing them to “write” a book. The Writers Digest published sales statistics from celebrity book sales in recent years, and the findings show why publishers are neglecting authors. Celebrities generate hundreds of thousands of book sales, and a first-time writer sells around 250 books in their first year. Publishers are likely to choose high-profile biographies to maximize their profits. However, publishers are contributing to this celebrity culture rather than offering writers support. Granted some celebrities write an exciting book, but most use the services of a ghostwriter. Content creators offer ghostwriting services for extra income, and many literature authors are doing the same. While the internet and magazines contribute to celebrity culture, publishers aren’t innocent. They put money before unique, well-written books and the effects are devastating to writers. The Publishing House is No Longer a Welcoming Home Writers used to long for the day they’d get a coveted letter from a publishing house. Releasing a book was a huge deal, and many authors made their fortune from literary fiction. Advances were common practice, and publishers worked hard to promote each book to the right target audience. Today authors must deal with meager advances, poor sales, and low royalty amounts. For example, if a book markets at $20, the author will make just over $1. The average copies a book sells in its lifetime is 3000, which shows the shocking reality of writers potential incomes. Publishers run on book sales, but the low-pay they offer is driving writers away from them. Some authors become instructors, and offer writers tips, while others are looking to use their talents to provide content for companies. The fact is if this disregard of writers continues the printed book will be a distant memory. Publishers will feel the effects as they struggle to attract talented writers and have to rely on celebrity culture. Working Together For A Better Future Most people can think of at least one book that changed their outlook on life. Timeless works such as Pride & Prejudice, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Da Vinci Code show how powerful the written word can be. Publishers have a big responsibility to find writers and give the world incredible literature. The only solution is for writers and publishers to work together as we move into the future. Better pay, more support and a passion for books could be the key to surviving the current decline. Established publishers should offer writers tips and look at the quality of a book rather than the name behind it. Thinking of self-publishing? We have the right tip to support you.
Writing a book allows you to pass down your insights to society at large and be remembered for your contribution.