Penury and Professional Writing

The United Kingdom’s Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) commissioned from the University of London independent research into authors’ earning in the United Kingdom. The data is current as of 2013. Participants numbered over 2,400 individuals.



11.5% of professional authors earn a living solely from writing. This is down severely from 40% in 2006. This decline is increasingly detrimental to the quality of the creative industries and their economic viability. Further, although income from digital publishing has increased, authors’ real income has fallen in real terms, by some 29% since 2005. This decline of real income has severely reduced the number of full-time writers, as median income is below the minimum needed to support an acceptable standard of living. Yet in contrast, the wealth generated by all cultural industries, and by the export of cultural goods and services, has increased.

The major sources of writers’ earnings are (1) books, (2) magazines and periodicals, (3) digital publishing, (4) newspapers, and (5) media (e.g., films, radio, television). Self-publishing is on the rise, with 25% of writers using it with success, with a 40% return on investment. 86% report they would repeat the venture.

The full report is available here.


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