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42% drop in writer income attributed to growth of new media, changing attitudes

Value associated with small content generators and copyright owners appear to be on a similar downward trajectory as independent inventors and patent holders. 

Decline in small book publishing and freelance opportunities for writers has resulted in a 42% decline in income for writers between 2017 and 2009.

The most comprehensive survey of writing-related income of U.S. authors ever conducted, recently published by the Author’s Guild, cites median pay for full-time writers as $20,300 in 2017; $6,080 for part-timers.

The findings included responses from more than 5,000 published book authors, across genres and including both traditional and self-published writers.

Fewer Opportunities

The decline in free-lance journalism and pay has meant less opportunity for authors who write for a living. Many of the best paying publications have dropped their rates or have folded. Content and copyright are increasingly the province of large providers like Conde Nast, whose own fortunes have been declining.

“The decline in earnings is also largely because of Amazon’s lion’s share of the self-publishing, e-book and resale market,” reported The New York Times. Amazon charges commissions and marketing fees for premium positioning, something smaller publishers cannot afford.

The Times quoted a source as saying the “The people who are able to practice the trade of authoring are people who have other sources of income.” This, the article said, creates barriers to entry and limits the types of stories that reach a wide audience.

Devaluation Crisis

“There is also a devaluation of writing in which it is often viewed as a hobby as opposed to a vocation.”

The Authors Guild calls the decline a ” crisis of epic proportions, especially for literary writers.”

SMEs and independent inventors take note: devaluation of creative output has not been limited to authored works.

What and how much audiences are willing to pay for intellectual property rights like patents have declined, as cheap or free-access has grown.

Some see it not only as an attitude towards authors, but as a strategy on the part of some content providers to cut costs and limit competition.

Amazon controls approximately 85% of the self-published market and so most self-published authors have no options other than to accept Amazon’s non-negotiable terms.

“Amazon,” says the Authors Guild, “but also Google, Facebook and every other company getting into the content business, devalue what we produce to lower their costs for content distribution, and then take an unfair share of the profits from what remains for delivering that reduced product.”

Among AG recommendations: “Publishers and self-published authors should be able to negotiate collectively with Amazon, Google and Facebook to equalize the bargaining power.”

For a summary of the Authors Guild survey findings and recommendations, go here.

For the full survey, go to the bottom of the page, here.

Image source: fairhaven.com; authorsguild.org


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