As recently as the 1980s and ’90s, writers like me could reasonably aspire to a career and a living wage. I was dispatched to costly and difficult places like Iraq, to work for months on a single story. Later, as a full-time book author, I received advances large enough to fund years of research. How many young writers can realistically dream of that now?I found Horwitz’s piece refreshing—he was willing to write the emperor-has-no-clothes piece. He explains that many of the new platforms seducing us—in his case, the now-defunct Byliner—have been offering empty promises. Others, like the Huffington Post, have only helped us shoot ourselves in the foot, by encouraging more of us to write for free. Then there is Amazon, whose practices are disruptive at best and monopolistic at worst. Though they claim to support writers, I gasp every time I go on and see their prices for my books. Last week, Guardian writer Alison Flood, reported on new data from an Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society survey of 2,500 UK authors. The study found that since 2005, the percentage of authors whose sole source of income is writing has declined dramatically, from 40 percent to 11.5 percent. The survey also found an average income of only £11,000 (about $18,800 in US currency). While there is no definitive study of US author earnings, the Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest Author Survey had similar findings—most professional writers cannot rely on their writing alone to generate income. (Another finding that fascinated me was that most self-published authors make a pittance. So much for that new trend! Those willing to be “hybrid” authors, sometimes self-publishing and sometimes relying on traditional publishers, are most likely to earn the highest income.) In an article for the Telegraph, author Joanne Harris noted reasons for such a sharp drop in author income:
Pressures within publishing; the emphasis on marketing the best-sellers at the expense of the mid-list; the easy availability of free digital content; a public increasingly used to the lower pricing of e-books—all these have played their part in making authors feel the pinch.All this grim news isn’t enough to make me stop writing. I am currently researching ways to get grant money to support my work, and I’m working on yet another book proposal. How about you? If you write for a living, how have you been affected? What new stops are you pulling out? What needs to change?