The career path of an author is rarely paved with gold
Arts Correspondent The Telegraph
ItÔÇÖs the dream of many a frustrated office worker ÔÇô quit the rat race and start a new life as a writer.
But the career path of an author is rarely paved with gold, according to a new study highlighting the ÔÇ£huge inequalityÔÇØ between the incomes of big-name novelists such as JK Rowling or Ian McEwan and the majority of jobbing writers.
The research, commissioned by The AuthorsÔÇÖ Licensing and Collecting Society, found the top 5 per cent of writers earned close to half of all the income received by professional authors in 2013. The median income for professional writers is just ┬ú10,432, less than the minimum wage. Technical and academic writers are among the worst paid.
The report, compiled by Queen Mary, University of London, concluded: ÔÇ£There is a high concentration of earnings in a handful of successful writers whereas most do not earn much at all.ÔÇØ JK Rowling earns around $14m a year thanks to the ÔÇÿHarry PotterÔÇÖ franchise. But not all writers are so fortunate
Nicola Solomon, chief executive of the Society of Authors, said: ÔÇ£While itÔÇÖs always been a profession where the biggest authors earn disproportionately more, whatÔÇÖs concerning to see is that the inequality is getting wider.ÔÇØ
Britain remains a nation of aspiring authors, with a YouGov poll finding in February it was the most desired job in Britain. Of those asked, 60 per cent said they wanted to make a living from writing.
Ms Solomon said a number of members of the Society of Authors had written in ironically in response to the YouGov survey, suggesting that they too would like to make a living from writing. ÔÇ£ItÔÇÖs undeniably harder to sustain a career in writing now,ÔÇØ Ms Solomon said.
The report revealed that 42.3 per cent of all the money paid out to professional writers was earned by authors earning more than ┬ú100,000 a year. The UKÔÇÖs top selling authors include JK Rowling, who earned $14m (┬ú9.4m) last year according to Forbes, while EL James is reputed to have earned $10m from the Fifty Shades trilogy in 2014 alone.
The bottom half of writers ÔÇô those who received less than ┬ú10,432 in 2013 ÔÇô earned just 7 per cent of total earnings between them. ÔÇ£It appears that writing is a profession where only a handful of successful authors make a good living while most do not,ÔÇØ the report said.
Ms Solomon said that part of the problem was many publishers have concentrated on the ÔÇ£safeÔÇØ with celebrity authors, many of whom were not even writers but actors, television personalities and sportspeople.
Authors who used to make publishers a ÔÇ£perfectly good profitÔÇØ of around ┬ú5,000 are no longer seen as viable she said. Advances are less common now, and the size is often smaller.