What do authors really earn?

In a recently published report published by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ACLS), the average earning for a professional author was £11,000. This represented a drop from the figure of £12,000 reported in a similar survey carried out at the turn of the century. Richard Combes, Head of Rights and Licensing at the ACLS, makes the point that this is 13% below the minimum wage. He also makes the equally good point that this is a sector worth £76 billion per annum.
Within that field however, as with most industries, the most successful authors are doing better, with the top 5% earning more than £100,000 per annum.
A quarter of the writers surveyed had self-published and, according to Sarah Shaffi of The Bookseller, “the most successful self-publishing ventures had an average rate of return of 154%”, with the top 10% making a profit of £7,000. As with traditional publishing however, there is large variation, with the bottom 20% of self-published authors reporting a loss of £400.
Of course, not everyone who publishes is driven solely by the finances; and, as the figures above would show, this is probably for the best. It does however raise the question of what an author, particularly a self-published author, can do to push their work further up this particular bell curve. Much like politics, when the question is raised about whether it is better to cut costs or invest, much will depend on your perspective.

You can download the full report here.