Just one in ten authors can earn a full-time living from writing, report finds

This article was in the Daily Telegraph today :


That only one in ten authors earn a full-time living from writing doesn’t surprise me. I have forty-four titles online at Smashwords and Amazon, and I’m as poor as a church mouse. The report pertains to British authors, but I somehow doubt that the figures quoted would be a lot different for American writers.

I found its references to self-publishing a little confusing, as it looks like they’re not referring to ebooks at all, but rather what was once known as vanity publishing, where writers pay for hard copies of their books to be printed. Clicking on the blue highlighted The Business of Being an Author link in the article will give you a PDF copy of the report.

The statistic that 42.3% of earnings are accrued by just 5% of authors is shocking. That there’s such an imbalance in how readers choose what to read proves people buy what they know, and what everyone else is talking about. The book needn’t have any literary worth, with the Fifty Shades series being so poorly written that they’re pathetically trite.

J. K. Rowling has better technique but was allowed to run roughshod over any editing considerations on the back of her financial success, making the later books in her Harry Potter series bloated. There’s such a thing as being too successful, for she’s gone from being an impoverished mother living on state benefits, to having a net worth of one billion dollars. This means that she needs to employ a team of bodyguards, to prevent kidnapping attempts and terrorist attacks.

Why would want that situation? I’d be happy to just earn a decent living. After writing a 160,000-word psychological thriller in 2014, I’ve spent the last six months researching ways of promoting myself and my books, making social media postings and chasing literary agents and publishers who accept direct submissions. This feels like mixing wallpaper paste each and every day, compared to the joy that I got from creative writing.

I will endeavour to persevere though, for I know that it’s all a case of getting the ball rolling. After all, J. K. Rowling could still be living on benefits, had the eight-year-old daughter of a senior publishing executive not said that she liked the first Harry Potter story – causing him to give it another look. Twelve other publishers had already rejected it.

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