Writers’ Earnings: Authors Guild Survey Results

Last week the Authors Guild put out a survey regarding how much writers’ earnings have dropped. The survey covers the years 2009-2015. The results aren’t overly optimistic. I thought I’d summarize a few of the key points. I recommend going to this site and reading the entire report.
Author Earnings Survey

Wages: For full-time authors, wages are down 30%. In 2009 full-time authors were earning an average $25,000 a year. In 2015 the average was $17,500. For part-time authors, the drop was even more significant. 38%. In 2009 Part-time authors were earning $7,250. In 2015 that number had dropped to $4,500.

Only 39% of writers can support themselves solely on writing related projects. That means they need some outside source of income, and if it’s a job, that means they have less time to write.

Alternatives: More and more writers are taking a “hybrid” approach to publishing. 33% have self-published a book.

Promotion: Writers are being forced to do more and more of the promotion. Since 2009 the amount of time spent on promotion has jumped 59%. That means writers have less time to work on their books/articles.

Experience: You might think writers with a lot of experience would be making more money than new writers, but that’s not the case. Those with ten to fifteen years of experience are making roughly the same amount in 2015 as they were in 2009 (That in itself isn’t good news). Those with 15-25 years experience are making 47% less. 25-40 years of experience are making 67% less.

As the Authors Guild states at the end of the survey, the results aren’t encouraging, but with more writers taking control of their writing (by becoming hybrid authors who publish using both the traditional method and self-publishing) the future isn’t bleak; however, the Guild still feels writers are not being paid as they should be.

Also, the Guild was very disappointed by the most recent court decision regarding Google and its “free” distribution of writers’ e-books. For more information regarding that decision, go to:

Authors Guild appeals-court decision

It’s good that most writers write because it’s something they love to do. If you are one of the writers getting rich, that’s great. If you’re not getting rich, at least now you know you’re not alone.

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14 Responses to Writers’ Earnings: Authors Guild Survey Results

  1. Robert Johnson says:

    So……. you’re one of the ones getting rich while writing, right?

  2. Hi, Maris,

    Just what I expected. With the number of magazines and newspapers of print variety disappearing as well as book publishers, what writers are paid for work is less and less. Also, many more would-be writers submitting work to those who are still in business making competition murderous. Not a pretty picture! Digital publishing is not a great payday for writers either and then there’s piracy to contend with.

  3. Melissa Keir says:

    Why do people think becoming a writer is so easy? We don’t earn enough for a cup of coffee, let alone all the other commitments (promotion). It’s better to be informed but wow.. that’s a big downward turn!

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      I still smile when I remember a man who joined a critique group I belonged and was all excited about writing a novel. Then he went to a conference and heard what most writers make. He quit the critique group and found a job that pays well. As far as I know, the novel has been forgotten.

  4. Alice Duncan says:

    This is kinda depressing, but I’m not surprised. The only way I make a living using my writing experience is as an editor for a publishing company. That’s pretty sad.

  5. Thanks for the interesting article about authors’ earnings, Maris. Some sobering data here, but as you know, writers must write so on we press.

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      We press on, Elizabeth, and hope the next book will hit the NY Times best seller list. I’ve always told new writers, if you can not write, then don’t. The writers I know don’t have that choice.

  6. ann bennett says:

    Being a retired teacher, there is some hypocrisy in the next paragraph. I have compromised, tolerated and ignored a lot in my work life.

    That being said,

    Signing a contract with unfair clauses, otherwise the agent or publishing company will not work with them is a reality. Allowing work to be free. I.E. a blog to create a platform which does not allow the writer to submit work later for sale.

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      Ann, are referring to the Google and Author Guild’s court case?

      • ann bennett says:

        It is more an observation of the interaction of writers with wanting their work out there with the industry. Writer’s really need a guild or union or writer’s cooperative to market their work.
        I do know most people write garbage in the beginning.It bothers me when I see really good writers having to go through so much.

        • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

          Thanks for explaining, Ann. Writers really do need the benefit of a union of writers which is why I belong to the Authors Guild, Romance Writers of America, and Mystery Writers of America. I’m not sure I would agree that the early work of a writer is usually garbage, but writing is a craft and we learn as we go along.