Authors Earned More Six Years Ago, New Guild Survey Reveals

September 15, 2015

The Authors Guild’s latest study on author income revealed that if authors depended solely on income from writing, they would—unsurprisingly—be living below the federal poverty line, Publishers Weekly reports.

But not only are authors earning too little; they’re also earning significantly less. Since the Guild’s last study in 2009, the median writing-related income for both full-time and part-time authors has dropped from $10,500 in 2009 to $8,000 in 2014—which amounts to an overall 24-percent drop in income. Some authors have reported steeper drops than others.

The survey, conducted by the Codex Group, bases its results on responses from 1,674 Guild members, 1,406 of whom identified as a full-time or part-time author. To fall below the poverty line, a single person must earn less than $11,670 annually; according to the survey results, 56 percent of respondents meet this qualification.

Digital innovation has affected authors in ways that hadn’t yet taken effect in 2009. The takeaway? Mary Rasenberger, executive director at the Guild, told PW that the publishing industry must rethink its financial model so that it better rewards its authors.

“Authors need to be cut in more equitably on the profits their publishers see, or we’ll stop seeing the quality of work the industry was built on.”

Related reading: New Yorker writer Daphne Merkin laments the mythic representations of the rich in fiction, reality television, and politics, and discusses works that better delve into the “flesh-and-bloodness” of wealthy characters.

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