New survey says most authors continue to earn less than $500 per year

The Guardian newspaper reports most authors earn less than $500 a year according to the latest research.

Almost a third of published authors make less than $500 a year from their writing, according to a new survey, with around a half of writers dissatisfied with their writing income.

In the wake of a year that has seen a bitter war of words rage between traditionally published and self-published authors, the survey shows that the old way of doing things continues to reap the most financial rewards for writers, with traditionally published authors making a median annual income of $3,000–$4,999, and independent writers a median of $500–$999. So-called hybrid authors, however – those who publish in both ways – did best, earning $7,500–$9,999 a year.

The survey also found that while roughly half of traditionally-published authors would prefer to follow the same route for their next book, two thirds of independently-published writers wanted to indie publish again.

“In opening and running their own publishing companies, these authors are finding that they can do things on their own terms and do better for themselves on average than many traditional publishers who might not have the same kind of commitment or investment in their work. That has to be very satisfying,” said Weinberg. “Having taken little monetary risk in their publishing endeavors, these authors may be pleased to earn even a little money.”

Traditionally published authors, meanwhile, are paid royalties and give up rights in exchange for the risk the publisher takes. They therefore “are likely to expect the publisher to deliver much more than they could do for themselves”, said Weinberg.

“There is frustration and disappointment when authors have given up control or future rewards and don’t receive the investment or see the results they expected. This finding speaks to the optimism in indie publishing that comes with the control and investment choices of indie authors, and I see it in my own experiences publishing fiction as DB Shuster,” said Weinberg.

“I know that if my book doesn’t sell today, there’s more I can do to promote it tomorrow, or maybe it will see a boost when my next book comes out. The time horizon is longer for indie authors: I don’t have to worry that the book doesn’t do well in the first few weeks because my publisher (me) is totally committed to my work and will continue to promote it even years from now. Finally, I’m in control of my own definition of success, and I’m not limited to particular sales numbers and dollar figures.”

The Guardian newspaper report was published January 23, 2015.

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