Professional Authors Don't Make Enough to Sustain an Acceptable Standard of Living

The dream of making millions from your novels is a fairly common one — it's why we writers spend our precious time slaving away at manuscripts that have no promise to ever see the light of day. For those who are lucky enough to have their works surface into books, however, dreams of Scrooge McDuck piles o' gold often come to a screeching halt. The majority of professional writers come to find out just how little being a career author nets. Now, according to new statistics from the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society, in the U.K., the average professional author doesn't even make enough money to sustain herself at a "minimum acceptable living standard."

In the U.K., the Joseph Rowntree Foundation says £16,850 (about $28,843) is needed to achieve a "minimum standard of living." According to the Guardian, however, the ALCS surveyed 2,500 working writers, and found that their incomes had dropped a whopping 29 percent from £12,330 (about $21,100, or £15,450/$26,450 adjusted for inflation) to  £11,000 (about $18,830) — which is well below the Rowntree standard. 

They're pretty shocking figures — and the reason they are is because the stories we hear are of those authors who are making the big bucks: names likes Garth Risk Hallberg, whose debut novel City of Fire fetched a nearly $2 million advance, or Matthew Thomas's We Are Not Ourselves, which is rumored to have snagged $1.2 million at auction. Then there are the salaries of publishing luminaries like E.L. James, who made $95 million in 2013, Suzanne Collins who made $55 million, and J.K. Rowling who made $13 million, according to Forbes.

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What do you do with info like this, exactly? Well, first, check out an author you don't know. Buy her book. Go to her readings and spread the word. It's hard out there for a writer.

Image: smoorenburg/flickr

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