A profession struggling to sustain itself
ALCS report on author incomes shows 60% drop in median incomes since 2006
The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) has published a report of their fourth survey into authors’ earnings – carried out by CREATe – with the stark headline that the median income of full-time professional authors has fallen by more than 60% in real terms over the past 16 years.
The report builds on findings from research carried out in 2006, 2014 and 2018, and asked participants to share details of income for the pre-Covid financial year 2019/20 and the Covid-affected financial year 2020/2021.
In 2006, median author earnings were £12,330. In 2022, the median has fallen to £7,000, a drop of 33.2% based on reported figures, or 60.2% when adjusted for inflation. The report, which ALCS argues is evidence of a ‘global trend towards the de-valuing of creative labour’, found that:
- The 60% fall in earnings has pushed median earnings to below minimum wage levels
- The gender gap is expanding – men are earning typically 41% more than women (vs 33% in 2016/17)
- The top 10% of authors earn about 47% of all author income
- The proportion of authors earning all their income from writing has decreased from 40% in 2006 to 19% today
- Authors’ dependence on portfolio earnings has increased
- Women, black and mixed-race authors, along with younger and older authors, all earn less than their respective counterparts
Publishing advances are becoming rarer, while buy-out contracts are becoming more frequent.