The traditional publishing industry has been hard hit as the years go by. Wait. Did I hear that right? Allow me to rephrase. The writers in the traditional publishing industry have seen their earnings going down while the profits of the publishers are increasing. Does this sound fair? Well, this issue has been a widely discussed topic and one that affects the welfare of many writers.
In 2014, figures were released that showed the median annual incomes of professional authors falling to £11,000. From these figures, it is easy to see that the terms of traditional publishers are no longer sustainable for authors. The percentage of authors who live purely on the earnings of their writing work has fallen from 40% in 2005 to 11.5% in 2012. This means that they have to sustain their writing by taking on other jobs. As with any other field, if you have to give it your best in your field while trying to pay the bills with another job, something is bound to suffer. This affects the quality of the writer’s work.
When you look at the worth of the creative industries in the UK alone, the earnings of the writers seems miserable. In 2014, the ALCS shared its findings against the Department of Culture, Media and Sports which revealed that the creative industry earned £71.4 billion! Considering that all the Media we see in many forms of media – whether it is radio, television or even in the form of books or journals, it seems that the writers are getting a stiff deal.
These findings show a great discrepancy between the wealth of the UK creative industries which is on the rise as well as the sharp decline in earning of the writers. This could mean serious implications for the quality of content for the future which could in turn affect the economic success of the creative industries. The bigger players need to look beyond profits and see the bigger picture.
The sad fact is that the publishing houses, retailers and agents are getting a bigger slice of the cake while the authors themselves are being left with crumbs. As Nicola Solomon, Chief Executive of the Society of Authors says, “Authors need fair remuneration if they are to keep writing and producing quality work. Publisher profits are holding up and, broadly, so are total book sales if you include ebooks but authors are receiving less per book and less overall due mainly to the fact that they are only paid a small percentage of publishers’ net receipts on ebooks and because large advances have gone except for a handful of celebrity authors.”
With the world gearing up towards the sales of eBooks, the traditional role of a publisher has changed. Earlier, the publisher would have edited, copy edited, designed, marketed, promoted the book as well as dealt with foreign sales. But with the advent of the eBook, they really have less to do. This reasoning leads the SoA to believe that the authors should get a better share as the publisher’s costs are also less. Even though the authors are being asked to do a lot of promotional work for their books, they are not being compensated nor are they benefiting from the cost savings of releasing an eBook which has no need for being stored in a warehouse, being published on paper and more.
This has led to more and more writers finding Awards to help them sustain their writing or self publishing their books. The costs involved are not high and writers are able to recoup their investment within a short span of time. Over 86% of authors who had self published stated that they would do so again as the deals offered by publishing houses are disappointing.
Self publishing seems to be the new way to taking control over your work as well as having the freedom to channel that passion and energy for their love of writing and converting into higher royalties.