Industry & Advocacy News
April 14, 2020
The Authors Guild recently completed a survey of its
membership on the immediate impact of the COVID-19 crisis, receiving 940 responses.
We thank the members who responded. The Guild asked a series of questions
designed to gauge how the ongoing lockdown has affected authors, specifically
when it comes to their incomes and other financial concerns. The first question
asked of our members was a rather simple one: “Has your income from any source
declined in recent weeks due to the crisis?” 54.1% responded “Yes,” compared to
45.3% who responded “No” (the remaining 0.6% did not answer).
For those who responded “Yes,” we then asked them to name
the source of the missing or declining income (they could name more than one if
they were missing income from multiple sources). Unsurprisingly, given the
nature of the current crisis, 232 authors pointed to “Speaking/performance
engagements cancelled,” which was by far the most identified missing income
source. Following that was “Journalism” at 93 authors, then “Non-writing
related work – furloughed or laid off” at 87, “Partner’s loss of income” at 75,
“Book contracts cancelled or payments delayed” at 52, “Loss of book sales or
revenue through self-publishing” at 45, and two different categories of
“Teaching position – furloughed or laid off,” with writing-based positions
identified by 34 authors and other subjects by 26 authors.
Next, we asked our authors if they were unable to work
because of a personal reason, with three different options. 63 authors
indicated they could not work because children were at home. Another 40 authors
said they couldn’t work because of their own illness. 28 authors said they
couldn’t work because of an illness in the family.
We then asked if the authors had either just published a new
book or were going to publish in the spring or summer. 46.1% indicated they had
either recently published or would soon publish a new book, while 48.6% said
they were not publishing at this time (an additional 5.3% did not answer the
question). Of those with a recently or soon-to-be released book, we asked them
if they were concerned about sales being lower than expected (or if they had
already experienced lower sales, if their book was already out). A staggering
74.1% said they were concerned or impacted, compared to just 25.9% who
indicated they were not.
On the subject of whether or not they’re doing more online
marketing than in the past, 37.2% of respondents answered “Yes,” compared to 51.5%
who said “No” (11.3% expressed no opinion). Another question asked whether
members were having any issues with publishers not fulfilling terms of a
contract, cancelling or threatening to cancel a contract, or not signing a deal
that was close to final. The responses here were encouraging, with just 8.2% of
authors saying this was the case. 84% answered “No” to this question, with
another 7.8% declining to answer.
For the 8.2% of authors who did indicate some sort of issue
with a publisher, we asked them to explain their issue further and then broke
these down into categories. 21 respondents indicated their contract or
publication was on hold, with many indicating they were simply not hearing back
from their publisher despite previously being in the midst of negotiations. 19
authors indicated they were having an issue with a delayed advance or royalties
not being paid. 7 more authors said their contract or project was cancelled
Finally, for our last question, we flipped things around a
bit and asked: “Have you seen writing-related freelance work increase at
all?” Unfortunately, just 6.6% of respondents said “Yes,” compared to 80.6% who
answered “No” (another 12.8% did not answer this question).
We will be updating the survey over the coming weeks to see
how things progress and find out whether our members have been able to obtain
federal, state, or other COVID relief.
If you have any questions, please contact us.