Writers need help, say MPs

News - Publishing Wednesday, 12 June 2019

All Party Writers Group inquiry calls for immediate action to reverse steep decline in authors’ earnings

The All Party Parliamentary Writers Group has today published its report following its 2018 Inquiry into author earnings.

Called Supporting the Writers of Tomorrow, it makes a raft of recommendations to Government based on evidence given to the Inquiry by a range witnesses including professional working writers, and representives of the Association of Authors’ Agents, the Society of Authors, the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, the Publishers Association and the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS).

The report’s recommendations are designed to ensure better support for authors, while also improving government engagement with creators, protecting UK publishing beyond Brexit and ensuring fairness in the bookselling market.

The key recommendations are:
- The adoption of new copyright rules proposed in the latest EU copyright directive.
- The protection and promotion of the UK’s existing, effective copyright system.
- The establishment of a Creators’ Council to look at issues including diversity.
- A reduction of the rate of VAT on ebooks.
- A review of the tax and benefit rules for authors.
- The creation of a ‘level playing field’ between high street and online booksellers.

The contribution made to the UK economy by the creative industries, which now employ 1 in 11 working people, continues to grow and is valued at £101.6 billion. However, the most recent piece of research undertaken on behalf of ALCS by CREATe, University of Glasgow, shows that writers’ earnings have fallen by 42% in real terms since 2005.
In addition, the 2018 ALCS survey showed that female authors earn around 25% less than their male counterparts; a discrepancy that results both from lower rates of pay and a poorer breadth of opportunities, particularly in film and television.

Contributors to the Inquiry also raised concerns that a decline in authors’ earnings could discourage new writers from taking up the profession, exacerbating the lack of diversity in the publishing and creative industries. Figures from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport show that 92.5% of workers in the creative industries and digital sector come from more advantaged social groups, compared with 67.3% for the general UK workforce.

Tony Bradman, children’s writer and chair of the ALCS Board, said: "Hard-working writers continue to produce great work which supports our thriving creative industries, and also provides entertainment and information for huge numbers of people in the UK and around the world. And yet, as the APWG report confirms, it’s now tougher than ever to make a living as a professional writer. That’s not fair and adopting the recommendations of the report would be a very good way of beginning to address the problem."

Nicola Solomon, chief executive of the Society of Authors, said: "We welcome these findings and support all the recommendations put forward by the APWG. We are pleased to see MPs recognise the importance of preserving our copyright regime after Brexit and preserving public funding in the arts. We also support the idea of a Creators’ Council, which will ensure that creators are at the heart of policy-making in Government.

"We have argued for a long time that action needs to be taken to address the decline in authors’ earnings, and we are pleased that this has now been officially acknowledged by MPs.

"With a new Prime Minister and ministerial team due to be in place soon, it is important that this report is taken forward and given serious consideration by government. We look forward to working with ALCS, the APWG and other stakeholders to make the case for these changes over the months ahead."

Joanne Harris, author and ALCS Board member, said: "The APWG report confirms what writers have known for a long time: that their incomes are falling by the year. It also constitutes worrying evidence that the writing profession is set to get less diverse rather than being the place for all kinds of voices that it needs to be. Writing is not just a fun pastime. It's a real job, that real people do. It's about time those real people were fairly rewarded."

John Whittingdale MP, chair of the All Party Writers’ Group, said: "Continuing our tradition of rich creativity is central to establishing the UK’s future in the world. We must do all we can to support our creators, and ensure they are fairly rewarded for their fantastic contribution to our society."

The Inquiry results publication can be downloaded from the APWG website at www.allpartywritersgroup.co.uk

Pictured: John Whittingdale

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