A cheerful little article in yesterday’s Guardian brightened up my grey Monday: most writers make no money.
This is not new news. We’ve known that since people first started scratching their proto-blogs on clay tablets.
However, yesterday’s article couched its message in stark numbers: 80 per cent of self published writers make less than £600 per year; 54 per cent of traditionally published authors earn as little; 43 per cent of writers published both self and traditionally published are in the same predicament. Described in these cold numbers the noble poverty of writers seems more real, scarier, and more pathetic.
There is no hard figure in the article for the writers who do make a living. Less than one per cent of self-published writers and less than 6 per cent of traditionally published writers make £60,000 or more.
Between £1,000 and £60,000 there’s a lot of space and a lot of people so we can’t draw any inferences about the number of people making a living wage. The 2009 edition of the Writer’s Handbook said that a massive 6 per cent of published writers actually made enough to live on (and this number doesn’t quite jibe with the Guardian’s numbers).
I suppose it is heartening that someone somewhere is making some money (but then you reflect on what the big sellers are and you feel somewhat less heartened).
While I was reading the Guardian article, with exquisitely evil timing, my computer went ping and an agent’s rejection of my current project King of the Undies World popped into my inbox.
The Guardian article then went blandly on to say that the majority of writers don’t write for money, missing the point that we bloody well would if we could.
The markets for ebooks, self published books and traditionally published books are saturated and then some. Prices are falling, publishers are looking for gimmicks while making mystifying decisions in putting out fifty shades of utter rot, while big players in distribution, retail and publishing ― well, Amazon ― are remaking the markets in their own image.
My advice to fellow writers? Give up. All of you. Give up now. Withdraw the works you have out there. Get yourself a pot of tea and a good book to read. An example of a good book to read might be Weed or Un-Tall Tales. I’m going to plod on because I have no idea what to do if I don’t keep batting my own head on inconvenient reality.