The Authors Guild Rehashes Bogus Author Income Survey as a “New” Report

Earlier this week The Publishers Authors Guild released a report that “explores the factors leading to the decline in the writing profession. Alas, this report is based on the flawed survey that I debunked last January, making it the epitome of the “garbage in, garbage out” error.

As I reported last year:

The Authors Guild report in particular is flawed because it is based on a self-selected survey group where self-published authors are under-represented and retirement age traditionally authors are over-represented.

And as Len Epps pointed out in the comment of that post, 18% of the survey respondents didn’t make any income from their writing in the previous year. This would arguably disqualify the from being “full-time authors” (I would call them retired, actually).

You can find the report as a PDF on The Authors Guild’s website.

It is based on a number of false assumptions, so it has little merit.

If nothing else, its very mindset is flawed. Like we’ve seen in other The Authors Guild statements on this topic, this report focused on the income of published authors and conveniently overlooks the fact that before the internet, 99% of authors made nothing from the sale of their books because they could not get published in the first place.

Of the remaining 1%, maybe one in a hundred could make a living at it.

What The Authors Guild wants you to do is focus on the 0.01% so they can wring their hands over the poor, beleaguered authors. I am not sure what The Authors Guild gains by pushing this narrative, but it is as false as TAG’s claim that piracy is a major problem (when in fact their data shows the opposite is true).

What I do know was that author income as an aggregate is up. The 99.99% are making more than ever before by bypassing publishers entirely and going directly to market. Thanks to Amazon setting the standard, most ebook retailers pay better royalties than publishers ever did (another detail that The Authors Guild hoped you would overlook).

All authors have to do is strive to get those sales.  The way to win in the current market is for authors to save themselves.

The Authors Guild, on the other hand, is focused on authors getting rescued. (I think that says a lot about their mindset, actually.)

image by James Cridland via Flickr

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


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  2. Allen F22 February, 2020

    As I said a number of times over on TPV, the so-claimed ‘Authors Guild’ is merely the lapdogs of the big publishers and will bark on command. The main reason they ignore the indie/self publishers is because trad-pub makes no money on them – even loses money to them as they steal away the eyes/money that readers might have given trad-pub if they’d had no other choices.

    And they hate hate hate that what once was the sluice pile rejects (and many others that never gave trad-pub a chance to offer them a bad deal/contract) are now offering readers their work on Amazon – and making some money – money that trad-pub isn’t getting and has no control over.

    Authors Guild and the others will die off as the publishers do, and few will miss either of them (mostly those agents who got a cut of what little trad-pub pays the authors in their pens.)

  3. Peter Winkler22 February, 2020

    “The 99.99% are making more than ever before by bypassing publishers entirely and going directly to market.”

    That’s a false assumption.

    “Thanks to Amazon setting the standard, most ebook retailers pay better royalties than publishers ever did (another detail that The Authors Guild hoped you would overlook).”

    70% of little or no sales still equals nothing.

  4. Allen F24 February, 2020

    @ Peter

    You seem to be forgetting that 99.5% of that was/would be the slush pile rejects – so if they went indie/Amazon and made a whopping $20 then they did better than eating those rejection notices.

    And 70% of anything is better than 100% of nothing – not that trad-pub pays even 25% and never mind needing an agent to get anywhere near most trad-pub, so there goes another 15% …

    Besides, if trad-pub sees an indie book doing well they can always offer to buy it, though if it’s doing that well they might have to offer more than their standard bad boilerplate contract. 😉

    1. Nate Hoffelder24 February, 2020

      Actually, the 99% would be slush pile rejects. It’s the 0.99% that did get published but made very little.

  5. Disgusting Dude24 February, 2020

    Rejection notices are low calorie, though.
    And there’s an obesity epidemic out there.
    I’m sure the AG took both things into account, which is why they ignore indies earning pizza money instead of rejections.


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