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Project: Creative Industries

Authors’ Earnings and Contracts

Posted on    by Bartolomeo Meletti
Project: Creative Industries

Authors’ Earnings and Contracts

By 8 December 2022February 27th, 2024No Comments

Authors’ Earnings and Contracts


This project involves large-scale, repeat surveys of the contracts and earnings of authors and performers in the UK (50,000 writers in the 2018 study, 60,000 writers in the 2022 study).  The original survey was funded as independent research by ALCS, the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society, and match funded by the AHRC Creative Industries Policy & Evidence Centre in 2022. The surveys form part of a longitudinal series first conducted in 2006 (led by Kretschmer), repeated in 2014 (by Gibson, Johnson & Dimita out of Queen Mary, University of London), 2018 (also led by Kretschmer) and 2022 (led by Thomas). This series of surveys captures robustly the effects of digital changes on the labour market and working conditions of the creative sector.

In 2023, we received ESRC Impact Acceleration (IAA) funding to formalise a Creators’ Earnings and Contracts hub. Surveys of journalists, audio-visual performers, directors, and visual artists are under development with a range of industry partners.


UK Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS)
AHRC PEC (2022)
ESRC IAA (2023)
industry partners (2023-)


Amy Thomas
Principal Investigator (2022–)

Martin Kretschmer
Principal Investigator (–2021)
Co-Investigator (2022–)

Michele Battisti
Co-Investigator (2022–)

Helena Saenz De Juano Ribes (2022–)
Andrés Azqueta Gavaldón (2018)
Jaakko Miettinen (2018)
Sukhpreet Singh (2018)





Summary blog:



Citations (2022):

Publishing Perspectives (31 December 2022)

The Bookseller (16 December 2022)

The Guardian – Editorial (11 December 2022)
The Guardian view on declining authors’ pay: an unequal burden

Interview with BBC Radio (Sadie Nine) (8 December 2022)

The Times (7 December 2022)

The Independent (6 December 2022)

The Guardian (6 December 2022)
(with opinion piece:

The Herald (6 December 2022)

The Bookseller (6 December 2022)

Society of Authors (6 December 2022)

ALCS report (6 December 2022)


Citations and impact (2019):

The research provided an important input to the Inquiry into Authors’ Earnings of the All-Party Parliamentary Writers Group in 2019, and was presented to the All-Party Parliamentary Writers Group at the 2022 Winter Reception in the House of Commons.

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.’”

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)