Writing: The State Of Play
A quick health check on the average writer reveals that the patient is not doing so well. The average median income from writing for those who spend more than half their working life on books is around £10,000 p.a. It gets worse; Between 2006 and 2018 the average income for authors fell by 42%, according to the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society.
Now comes the final blow; the Brexicution.
Before Brexit Britain was part of the EU’s copyright agreement. This says that our books can be freely sold within Europe, but when sold outside they can’t be reimported to the home market. The British book industry is protected by strong copyright laws which means its writers, photographers and artists are fairly compensated and British books can be sold around the world.
An option of the new agreement being considered by this government would be to allow cheap foreign editions of our own books to bounce back and flood the UK market without the copyright holder’s permission. Prices would be driven even further down and authors’ earnings would dwindle to nothing.
If this seems like just another squabble over the fine print of a post-Brexit deal, it’s not. The creation and production of books in the UK is a key plank in the nation’s creative output. The agreement would crush royalties, undercut domestic sales and have a devastating impact on the nation’s writers. The Publishers’ Association estimates that if a new regime is introduced, the industry could see a drop of £1 billion in physical sales.
It means that the next generation of authors would consist of those who do not need to earn a living from books – so we return to a 19th century model wherein writing is for titled dilettantes. To allow the free-for-all would also be slashing long-term revenues from the creative industry.
The consultation continues.