Australia’s female authors only earn $18,200 a year from writing

Authors’ earnings and ‘portfolio careers’

If you are planning a career as an author, what could you expect to earn?

Education authors earned the highest average income from their practice as an author ($27,300), followed by children’s ($26,800) and genre fiction ($23,300) authors.

Even though these figures are above the overall average for authors, they are not enough to live on, to support a family, or to pay rent or a mortgage.

At the other end of the spectrum are poets, who earned an average of $5,700 from their creative practice. Literary authors earned $14,500, which is a decrease in real terms since 2015.

To break this down, an author’s income from their creative practice includes advances from publishers, royalties on book sales, fees for live appearances, Public Lending Rights (PLR) and Education Lending Rights (ELR) paid by the government for the use of their work in libraries and educational institutions, prizes and fellowships, and rights sales for film, TV etc.

Artists’ careers are often known as ‘portfolio careers’ – which sounds more glamorous than the bracing reality of juggling multiple commitments. Some authors have another career as a journalist, medical specialist, academic, teacher or public figure that provides their main source of income.

Several authors wrote about the uneven timing of income from their work. One literary author wrote: “It’s difficult to capture the life and income of an author because for up to five years nothing might happen except writing, then for about 18 months there is a flurry of (a tiny amount) of cash and editing, and then a month or two of publicity.”

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