In February this year, a Macquarie University team led by David Throsby surveyed 1,000 authors of trade and educational titles as part of a three- year research project to understand how changes to the publishing industry are affecting authors, publishers and readers.
Impact of change
The report found that genre fiction authors, including romance writers, have benefitted the most from changes to the publishing industry. Twenty-five percent of genre authors reported that their financial position had improved over the last five years. Thirteen percent indicated that they earned more than $101,000 in the 2013-14 financial year. In contrast, literary authors have experienced a drop in income over the past five years.
The survey discovered that 25% of authors are self-published indie authors. Forty-two percent of authors work with one publisher only while one third of authors work with two or more publishers.
The report speculates that one of the reasons for the increased success of genre authors is the growth of book sales at discount departments stores (DDS) such as Target, Big W and K-Mart. I speculate that another reason is the willingness – at least in the case of romance writers – to embrace change, try different formats and put personal time, energy and funds into marketing their books, engaging with their audiences and growing their readership. Societal change as much as changes to the publishing industry mean that it is no longer realistic for an author to cloister themselves in an ivory tower and still hope for success.
Income Facts and Figures
The report distinguishes between overall income for authors (average $62,000) and average income derived from practising as an author ($12,900). Nearly half of all authors supplement their income with a job unrelated to their writing. Education authors still earn the most from ‘author activities’ ($16,500), followed by children’s authors ($14,000) and then genre fiction authors ($11,100).
Just over 44% of authors have sold overseas right to their books during their careers and nearly one third have had their works translated into other languages. However, these figures do not represent the full reach of Australian-authored books as they don’t include individual sales of books in overseas markets nor self-published books.
Sadly genre fiction authors are the most likely to have their books pirated (the flip side of the popularity coin). Forty-four percent of genre authors report pirated editions of their novels as opposed to the average figure of 25% for all authors.
The demographics research confirmed that two thirds of Australian authors are women. More than 80% of authors have attended university and almost 50% have completed a post-graduate degree. Unsurprisingly 97% speak English as a first language.
So, we’re smart, well-educated and hard-working (and sassy). We knew that – but it’s nice to have someone else confirm it for a change 🙂
To read the full report, click here