Some interesting figures in this Guardian piece about new novelists:
Kate Pool of the Society of Authors confirmed that new writers could expect an average advance of £10,000 around 20 years ago: “Now they’re lucky to get between £1,000 and £3,000.” Research by the society shows that 75% of writers earn less than £20,000 a year and 46% less than £5,000.
As Ian Rankin says:
“The internet has pluses and minuses. It’s easier than ever to get your stuff seen by people. But it’s harder than ever to make a living from it. Look at the money that publishers are paying for new writers … less than they paid 20 years ago. They know first novels don’t sell many copies and, if writers decide … to sidestep the traditional publishing route and sell their stuff by themselves online, they’re having to sell it for virtually nothing – 99p.”
I’m not sure Rankin’s suggested tax breaks are the answer – especially at a time when library funding’s being cut all over the place – but it does demonstrate that whether it’s traditional publishing or self-publishing, most people aren’t making a living from it. The same, of course, applies to any supposedly glamorous kind of work: acting, being a musician, being an artist etc. By all means do it because you love it. But don’t do it because you think you’ll make money from it.