42% real terms fall in UK author earnings since 2005, ALCS income survey shows

27 June 2018

ALCS survey finds the average income of a professional author in 2017 was just £10,500.

The results of ALCS’ survey on author incomes are in, and they do not make for happy reading.

The results are an update of ALCS’ previous findings from 2013 and 2005, laying bare the extent to which authors’ earnings have plummeted over the last decade.

The key findings

  • The median annual income of a professional author is £10,500, which is well below the minimum wage.
  • The equivalent figure in 2013 was £11,000 and in 2005 it was £12,500.
  • In real terms, taking inflation into account, this represents a fall in writing income of 42% since 2005, and 15% since 2013.
  • Just 13.7% of authors earn their income solely from writing. In 2005 this was 40%.
  • There is a growing gender pay gap, with the average earnings of female professional authors only around 75% of those of the average male professional author, down from 78% in 2005. This finding is worrying, however we are reluctant to comment on it until we see a detailed breakdown of the figures, which ALCS will release in the autumn. We do not know how the figures compare across age and genre and whether this is a true like for like comparison.


Nicola Solomon, Chief Executive of the Society of Authors, said:

“This decline is extremely disturbing. With average earnings down by 42% in real terms since 2005 and now falling well below the minimum wage, it is worrying news for the profession.

“If authors can no longer afford to make a living from their work, the supply of new and innovative writing will simply dry up. This will lead to a reduction in reading, which is vital both for boosting literacy and all the benefits of reading for pleasure, as well as threatening the success of our world-leading publishing and creative industries.

“These figures could discourage new writers from entering the profession or mean that only those with other incomes will be able to write. This will exacerbate the well-publicised lack of diversity in publishing and create a vicious circle, making it harder to attract new and diverse readers.

“There are various changes in legislation and industry practice that could help improve this situation, from removing VAT on e-books to reforming the tax and benefit framework for the self-employed. In particular we are calling for reform in two areas: fair contract terms and a fair share of reward from publishers.


What could make a difference?

The Society of Authors is calling for action from industry and Government that could make a tangible difference to authors’ earnings:

  • A fairer share of the reward
  • Fairer contract terms
    • As part of our C.R.E.A.T.O.R. campaign we have been calling for legislation to address unfair contract terms and fair sharing of reward throughout the value chain – including clearer contracts, fair remuneration, fair accounting, and more.
    • See our CREATOR page for more information.

For more information please contact Martin Reed or Tim Gallagher on 020 7373 6642



  • About the Society of Authors
    The Society of Authors is the UK trade union for all types of writers, scriptwriters, illustrators and literary translators, at all stages of their careers. We have more than 10,000 members and have been advising individuals and speaking out for the profession for more than a century.


  • Where We Stand

Our pages set out our positions on a range of issues that affect authors, in relation to both legislation and industry practice. This includes areas such as contract terms, copyright law, tax and benefit rules for authors and Brexit.