Second poll confirms most authors will be hard hit by COVID-19

4 June 2020

The Society of Authors' second real-time survey confirms extent of impact of COVID-19 on authors’ income and wellbeing as implications for daily life and publishing industry continue to emerge. 

We have released the results of our second Authors in the Health Crisis survey assessing the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on authors’ livelihoods. 

The follow-up poll, which attracted 515 responses between 12 and 19 May, asked authors to report on the ongoing financial impact of COVID-19. It followed our earlier poll, which garnered 1,087 responses between 7 and 14 April, addressing the immediate effects of COVID-19 on authors’ earnings, health and wellbeing up to 1 April.

Read the results from the first round here, with the most important changes since being as follows: 

Lost income  

57% of respondents reported that their incomes had declined since the outbreak of COVID-19, up over a third from 41%. Only 23% said that the impact of Coronavirus on their earnings remained to be seen, down from 32% a month earlier. 

The proportion of respondents unable to mitigate their financial losses following the outbreak increased from 57% to 62%, reflecting growing unease, with only 15% of respondents reporting that they expect their incomes to remain stable or increase following the public health crisis, down from 18%.  

Following analysis of the extent of the crisis on authors’ earnings, over a fifth (21%) reported that they expect to lose between a quarter and a half of their income as an author, up 5%. It was better news for part-time authors with outside earnings, with 57% again saying that their non-writing incomes would be unaffected by the crisis. 

Government support 

Another positive finding was that 30% of authors reported that they will benefit from the Government’s support for the self-employed, up from 15% last time. Worryingly, those not expecting to benefit from the measures remained steady at 55% (down only 4%), reflecting our continuing concerns that more must be done to close gaps in the Government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) and its relationship to the Job Retention Scheme (JRS) for workers on PAYE and Universal Credit (UC) for those ineligible for SEISS or JRS support.  

These concerns were borne out by the proportion of respondents who said that they would not benefit from either of the Government’s other schemes, with 86% (JRS) and 85% (UC) respectively confirming that they would not do so, compared to 84% (JRS) and 85% (UC) last time. They also support the concerns raised in our latest submission to the House of Commons’ select committees for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.  

Commenting on the second Authors in the Health Crisis survey results, SoA Chief Executive Nicola Solomon said: 

“Authors were understandably concerned about supply difficulties and lost sales when the crisis first broke. Many of these have since been resolved although we remain concerned about authors’ declining incomes as a result of the crisis and we will be looking very carefully at what September’s royalty statements mean for our members. 

“We are continuing to lobby Government and MPs on the shortcomings of the Treasury’s financial support schemes and, while we were pleased to see the Chancellor announce the extension of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme last Friday, it is clear across both sets of data that far too many authors are still falling between the gaps in Government support and that a majority of them have not since been able to mitigate their financial losses.  

“We are still concerned about the financial viability and diversity of the publishing and creative industries following the crisis, and we are working with organisations across the piece to ensure that we have a vibrant arts scene once we settle into a ‘new normal’ and that the Government fully understands the scale of the challenge facing the arts and creative industries.” 

Broader impact 

Of those polled, the number reporting that they were worried about the effect of the crisis on their wellbeing rose by 3% to 90%, with 31% saying that they were ‘highly concerned’ or ‘extremely concerned’ about the effects, also up 3%. 

We plan to run a third round of the survey once the effects on royalty statements and of round two of the SEISS are known. The extension of the SEISS follows our further call to HM Treasury on 19 May and the Chancellor’s announcement on Friday (29 May) that the scheme would be extended.  

  • We have issued guidance on contractual cancellations in the wake of COVID-19, available here. SoA members should contact our team of advisors about their individual circumstances as each case will differ commercially and contractually.
  • The Authors’ Emergency Fund continues to accept applications for small grants to help mitigate financial losses caused by the crisis. 
  • If you are in need of urgent help with your mental health, visit our help pages for support options or call Samaritans for free on 116 123.