Industry & Advocacy News
January 5, 2019
The following summarizes the results of our 2018 Author Income Survey and puts the data in context and the long-term impact on the writing profession in America.
More book authors, even those who consider themselves full-time writers, are forced to hold down multiple jobs to earn enough money to survive. This includes authors who have written books for decades and have survived on their writing in the past.
Amazon dominates the book industry, both as a seller of books and as a publishing house. According to Codex’s November 2018 National Book Buyer survey, Amazon owns 72% of the online retail book market, which includes both eBook and print books, and nearly 50% of all new book units sold in the U.S. according to Amazon’s Annual Reports. Its control of so much of the retail market for publishers and for self-published authors affects authors in multiple ways:
 Writing-related income derived from 18 categories including speaking engagements, freelance journalism, the teaching of writing, fellowships/writers in residence, ghostwriting, editing or translating other people’s books, and other income-earning activities that utilize authors’ unique literary skills but are not directly related to the writing and publishing of full-length books.
 The Authors Guild’s prior surveys were focused on Authors Guild members. For our 2018 survey, we greatly expanded the number of published authors we surveyed to provide a much larger, highly diverse pool and wider perspective. We wanted to better understand how authors in different fields and publishing approaches are doing relative to one another to help authors identify which forms of publishing and which genres are most profitable. Because the participant pool was different for the 2018 survey, the data does not line up perfectly with our 2015 results, which looked at the changes in authors’ income over the span of five years, comparing 2009 incomes to 2014 incomes; we refer to that survey and the 2009 median incomes as a point of reference only as that was the year Amazon sold its millionth Kindle and also launched its Amazon Publishing imprints to compete directly with traditional publishers, forever transforming the industry.
 Book-related income consists of advances (book contract fee), royalties (from publisher or self-published), foreign sales, serial rights, reprint/permission rights, film/tv/radio rights, and money from book awards and prizes. Author-related income consists of the combined earnings from writing-related activities and book-related earnings.
*Updated on 1/9/19 based on information provided by Amazon.