In February 2018 we wrote about surveys of authors’ incomes in the US, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Overall the picture these studies painted was one of sharp declines in how much authors made.

A new study from the US Authors Guild is showing that things continue to get worse, not better, for authors. The Authors Guild surveyed 5,067 authors from both its membership and that of 14 other authors’ organisations in 2018. Some of the notable results were:

  • Authors’ incomes are at “historic lows”: a drop of 42% from 2009 to a median of US$6,080.00;
  • There was a 21% drop in book income earnings from 2013 (US$3,900.00) to 2017 (US$3,100.00);
  • Full time book authors had a median income of US$20,300.00, “well below the federal poverty line for a family of three or more.”
  • There was an 11% drop in royalties compared to 2013.
  • Literary authors had the biggest drop in income from books (27% in four years).

You can read the detailed results of the survey here.

One interesting point was how the Authors Guild emphasised Amazon’s dominance of the market as a major cause of lower incomes. The Guild points out that this leads to lower royalties and publishers cutting costs, with the losses passed to authors. It’s something to keep in mind when we think about how author-publisher contracts can better protect author interests – how will the contract protect my royalties as an author in light of Amazon’s extremely large market share?


Photo by from Pexels

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