Project: Creative Industries

Authors’ Earnings and Contracts

Posted on    by Bartolomeo Meletti
Project: Creative Industries

Authors’ Earnings and Contracts

By 22 April 2021November 8th, 2021No Comments

Authors’ Earnings and Contracts


This project involves a large scale survey of the contracts and earnings of 50,000 writers in the UK. The survey was funded as independent research by ALCS, the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society. The survey is a re-run of a survey first conducted in 2006 (also led by Kretschmer), and repeated in 2014 (by Gibson, Johnson & Dimita out of Queen Mary, University of London). This series of surveys captures robustly the effects of digital changes on the labour market and working conditions of a specific professional sector.


UK Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS)


Martin Kretschmer
Principal Investigator

Andrés Azqueta Gavaldón
Jaakko Miettinen
Sukhpreet Singh


2018-2019 (repeat survey planned for 2022)


Report: Kretschmer, M., with A. A. Gavaldon, J. Miettinen, S. Singh (2019). ‘UK Authors’ Earnings and Contracts: A survey of 50,000 writers’ (84pp), Glasgow: CREATe Centre

Summary blog:


Citations and impact:

The research provided an important input to the Inquiry into Authors’ Earnings of the All-Party Parliamentary Writers Group.

Their report (published on 11 June 2019) cites the research prominently: “Despite the continued growth of the creative industries, now valued at £101.5 billion, studies show that writers’ earnings have fallen by 42% in real terms since 2005.”  The report also uses the findings relating to the so-called ‘gender gap’: “The most recent ALCS survey suggests that female authors earn around 75% of that earned by their male counterparts. This issue seems to exist in both earnings and opportunity. 16% of working screenwriters are women and only 14% of prime-time TV is written by women.” (page 5) 

The Guardian, reporting on the study on 7 May 2019, focused on the risk to diversity. Alison Flood writes that: “Writing is in danger of becoming an elitist profession, with many authors being subsidised by their partners or a second job in order to stay afloat, according to new statistics.” 

In the Saturday edition of The Financial Times (9 June 2019), Emily Rhodes extensively references the research in the feature “How do authors earn a living? It’s a Catch-22 situation”. Rhodes writes: “The ALCS survey also shows that an increasing number of authors no longer get any advance at all: only 69 per cent of primary occupation writers said they received an advance, down from 82 per cent in 2006.” “Even with new potential revenue from events, options and audio rights, falling advances demand that authors must commit to writing the book before earning much (or any) money from it. Professor Martin Kretschmer, who led the research for the ACLS survey, commented on the drop in authors’ earnings: ‘It can be argued that this is making writing more elitist as a profession.’”


Other citations of the research include:

Bookseller (11 June 2019) 

Books + Publishing Australia/New Zealand (8 May 2019) 

BookBrunch (8 May 2019) 

Society of Authors (7 May 2019)

ALCS news release (2 May 2019)