SoA calls for action to boost authors’ income

Martin Reed

Martin Reed

Martin leads the SoA's Communications team. He oversees our strategic communications and campaign-based activities, including PR, social media, events and partnerships.
Responding to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Writers’ (APPWG) inquiry into authors’ earnings, the SoA has called upon both government and industry to take action to support authors and boost their income.

In response to the results of ALCS’ recent survey, which showed that the median annual income of a professional author is just £10,500, the APPWG is carrying out an inquiry into authors’ earnings. The group is seeking to ‘further develop our understanding of how authors’ earnings have changed over time’, and ‘review the opportunities to improve the position of authors through legislation and regulation’.

In our response to the inquiry we have outlined some of the reasons for this decline, and have made a number of proposals which cumulatively may help to mitigate the problem.

The causes of the recent drop in authors’ earnings are complex and varied. The demise of the net book agreement, the growth of Amazon and a market that is increasingly skewed towards commercial bestsellers have transformed the landscape for writers, as has the increasing desire from the larger publishers to deliver high profits to shareholders. In some areas such as literary fiction both sales and real terms prices have fallen, and consumers have become accustomed to buying books at high discounts. Most authors have seen their advances diminish.

We are calling for a number of changes in both legislation and industry practice to address the problem, including:

  • Fair remuneration: we are asking publishers to sign up to our F.A.I.R proposals to ensure that profits are fairly shared along the value chain.
  • Fair contract terms: we are asking publishers to sign up to our C.R.E.A.T.O.R proposals for fairer contract terms.
  • Support for the self-employed: Recent DCMS employment figures showed that over a third of workers in the creative industries are self-employed, and this includes most authors. The Government should do more to support self-employed creators, through the tax and benefit system and through public grants for the arts.
  • Amazon and platforms: We would like to see more action from Amazon and other platforms to combat piracy, and to ensure that profits are being fairly shared with creators whose content is hosted on their sites.

Nicola Solomon, Chief Executive of the Society of Authors, said:

The reasons for the decline in authors’ earnings are complex and varied. With the demise of the net book agreement, the growth of Amazon and a market that is increasingly skewed towards commercial bestsellers, the landscape for writers has changed beyond recognition over the last two decades.

Much of the media coverage in recent weeks has focused on the role of publishers. While we do think that publishers should be paying authors more, we recognise that publishers are also under pressure and that there are various factors at play.

We would like to see action taken at many levels in the industry as well as government. This includes Amazon and other platforms, who need to do more to tackle piracy on their sites and ensure that creators are being fairly remunerated for their work.

We are delighted that the APPWG is carrying out this inquiry, and we hope it will provide an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of the root causes of low author earnings and bring these to the attention of politicians and government.

You can read our full submission below.

For an author’s perspective, please read our My Writing Income blog series.

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