New report explores what empowers writers to work

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.

19 July 2019

The SoA welcomes the RSL report which recommends more effective support for authors from all backgrounds at every stage of their careers, with findings that confirm our own research. 

The Royal Society of Literature (RSL) has published a report of findings from its A Room of My Own survey, which asked over 2,000 writers what it takes to nurture an environment that offers the freedom and opportunity ‘to make a life in writing possible for writers of all backgrounds and experiences’. 

Ninety years on from Virginia Woolf’s declaration that ‘a woman needs money and a room of her own to write’, the survey asked writers working today what they need to pursue a career in literature, and to flourish professionally. 

The report finds that the most significant types of support an author needs today still include physical space to write and financial support, including publishing advances, commissioning fees, UK state benefits and grants funding time to write. However, peer and emotional support from fellow authors, mentors, family and friends are significant to more writers than financial support in helping them to continue to write.

Establishing supportive networks

In our own SoA survey earlier this year, we found that writers, illustrators and literary translators across a range of career stages value access to peer networks, whether geographical or professionally based. Six in ten of the 1,761 authors we surveyed said that opportunities to network and build professional contacts are important to their careers. Half of respondents said they value access to peer networks to connect with other authors and support one another to combat the often isolating experience of an author’s working life. 

The RSL also found that writers need access to practical support, with more than half of respondents across the UK having received some form of training, professional advice or workshop from an organisation that supports writers. On average, six in ten writers have received support at some point in their careers, while the SoA found that for almost nine in ten respondents, access to professional advice is extremely or very important in supporting their career as an author alongside access to peer support networks. The SoA provides professional support and training to members along with networking opportunities. Our charities, including the Authors’ Foundation, give much needed financial assistance to ‘buy time to write’.

Most respondents to the RSL survey said that the lack of information about the support available to them can be a challenge early on in their careers. Four in ten emerging authors who responded to the SoA’s survey also said that increased knowledge of sources of funding and support would help their career.  

Broader development

The SoA is committed to widening access to our advice and support for authors at all stages of their careers across the UK. Our own survey has provided much of the fuel for that work, and we are currently in the early stages of a development project with the aim of taking the expertise and community we can to all authors who need it – building on the professional, community and financial support we already offer to the author community. 

Chief Executive, Nicola Solomon said:

“This new report from RSL adds a fascinating additional layer to that work – confirming the ALCS study and our own research, and helping to illustrate how our own work, and that of other organisations working with authors, might be focused. It highlights the need to urgently implement the recommendations of the All Party Parliamentary Writers Group Report.

“We are delighted to be able to announce a new residency for poets, the Hartsop Residency, which will commence from next year.”

The All Party Parliamentary Writers Group report – Supporting the Writers of Tomorrow – recommendations include:

  • The adoption of new copyright rules proposed in the recently passed EU copyright directive.
  • The protection and promotion of the UK’s existing, effective copyright system.
  • The establishment of a Creators’ Council to look at a variety of issues including diversity.
  • A reduction of the rate of VAT on ebooks.
  • A review of the tax and benefit rules for authors.
  • The creation of a ‘level playing field’ between high street and online booksellers.

Photo © mallmo


26 September 2023

We respond to the publication by The Atlantic of a list of pirated books used to ‘train’ artificial intelligence

7 September 2023

‘The Society of Authors Advisory Clinic’ releases the first episode of its second series on Monday 11 September. New season to include contracts, estates, audio drama and more

1 September 2023

In solidarity with striking writers and performers in the US