Coming up on #Litchat Writing Wednesday, November 4, 2015, 4 p.m. E.T.), we will talk about authors’s ability to earn a living in the current marketplace. Follow #LitChat on Twitter, or login to our dedicated channel at www.nurph.com/litchat.
The basis of our conversation will be a 2015 survey from the Authors Guild that reveals a 30 percent decline in author income since 2009 (The Wages of Writing). We also will reference an NPR story about authors’s livelihoods (When It Comes To Book Sales, What Counts As Success Might Surprise You).
For the 2015 Authors Guild survey, slightly more than 1,400 full-time and part-time writers responded to questions about their livelihoods. Their writing-related income of full-time book authors dropped 30 percent since the 2009 survey, reported the Authors Guild, falling from $25,000 to $17,500 annually.
“Part-time authors saw an even steeper decline,” said the AG report. Their income from part-time writing fell 38 percent since 2009, dropping from $7,250 to $4,500 annually.
AG said more than half of the respondents earned less than $11,670 from their writing lat year, which means they earned less than the 2014 federal poverty level.
NPR cited Nielsen Bookscan figures that U.S. hardcover sales for five of the six Man Booker finalists “Leading the pack,” said NPR reporter Lynn Neary, “was Pulitzer Prize winner Anne Tyler, the only writer on the list with six-figure sales for her book, A Spool of Blue Thread. A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James and A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara had sales between 15,000 and 20,000. Tom McCarthy’s Satin Island sold 3,600 copies.
Neary interviewed literary agent Jane Dystel, who said. “A sensational sale would be about 25,000 copies. Even 15,000 would be a strong enough sale to get the publisher’s attention for the author for a second book.” But if that second book doesn’t sell, added Dystel, odds are you won’t get another chance.
The Authors Guild survey says authors’s income is down due to a confluence of factors: The consolidation among traditional publishing (“most of the major publishers now are owned by major multinational corporations,” said the report, which means less diversity among publishers and “an increased focus on the bottom line”), “the rise of self-publishing as a viable alternative to traditional publishing,” plus ongoing and increasing ebook piracy.
“These phenomena,” concludes the Authors Guild, “along with the meteoric rise of Amazon as an industry behemoth and the shuttering of thousands of brick and mortar bookstores, have made the business of authorship both more diverse and less profitable than it was six years ago.”
LitChat Writing Wednesday moderator Judah Freed, an author and book coach, will lead a discuss about author income and related issues on November 4. Please join us for a lively conversation.
Follow Judah Freed on Twitter: @judahfreed.