Authors Guild Survey Shows Huge Decline in Income for Writers

If you’re thinking of giving up your day job to become a full-time writer, be sure to read the Authors Guild’s first survey on income in six years. It’s a sobering report that shows authors are not making as much money, even though they spend more time marketing their works.

Publishers Weekly described the grim situation this way: “Majority of authors would be living below the Federal Poverty Level if they relied solely on income from their writing.”

The Authors Guild’s “The Wages of Writing” survey was conducted by the research firm Codex Group among 1,674 guild members. The survey used 2009 as the starting point. At the time, fewer than 5 percent of book buyers bought an e-book. This year, nearly 50 percent of book buyers had purchased an e-book.

Authors Guild Survey: The Wages of Writing

Here are the highlights of the survey results:

  • Only 39 percent of authors participating in the survey said they supported themselves exclusively through writing-related work.
  • Full-time authors reported a 30 percent decrease in their writing incomes, from $25,000 in 2009 to $17,500 this year.
  • Part-time authors reported a 38 percent drop in their writing incomes, from $7,250 in 2009 to $4,500 this year.
  • Of the authors participating in the survey, 33 percent have self-published. “It appears that authors have increasingly feel they have a choice of whether to go through a traditional publishing house or taking the indie route on a per project basis,” according to the report.
  • Authors’ time spent marketing their works increased by 59 percent.
  • Authors with 15 or more years of writing experience reported the biggest drop in income; the decrease ranged from 47 percent (for those with 15 to 25 years’ experience) to 67 percent (25 to 40 years’ experience).

The Authors Guild, formerly known as the Authors League of America, was founded in 1912. It is the oldest and largest professional organization for writers in the United States. The guild advocates for authors on issues of copyright, fair contracts, free speech, and tax fairness.

Full disclosure: I’m a guild member and I participated in the survey.

Read the report, “The Wages of Writing,” here.

Read Publishers Weekly’s take on the survey results here.