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Author survey: Society of Authors responds

Author survey: Society of Authors responds

Nicola Solomon of the Society of Authors

Our survey into what authors thought about the firms that publish them has aroused considerable interest on both sides of the Atlantic. A useful Bookseller article garnered an interesting set of responses, but obviously, for reasons of space, some of those comments were truncated. So here, in full, is the response of Nicola Solomon at the Society of Authors. For what it’s worth, her comments get a thumbs-up from us!

Thank you for this useful and fascinating survey which broadly supports what we hear from authors. If I were a publisher reading this survey I would be very concerned. Although on first glance there appears to be broad satisfaction with publishers, deeper drilling reveals some interesting pointers. First, however you divide the data sets, fewer than 10 per cent of authors believe that publishers pay their authors well. Combining this with the ALCS survey on authors’ earnings which gave a median earnings figure of only £11,000 for a professional author shows that authors are finding it increasingly hard to make a living while publishers’ profits remain broadly stable. The time has no come to give authors a greater share of publishing profits: particularly on digital exploitation.

As well as doing badly on author share publishers are falling down on author care: 80% of British authors say that their publisher has never solicited feedback from them and the same percentage do not feel satisfied with their publisher’s consultation on marketing. Many of the tweets supported this. In the circumstances it is not surprising that 31% of authors say they would move if offered the same advance elsewhere and over 50% have either self-published  or are considering it. The UK lags behind the US where 67% of authors have either self-published or are considering it but our experience shows that more and more authors are likely to self-publish while the share they receive from traditional publishing remains so unfairly low in proportion to the value they contribute.

Amazon receives its share of criticism too. Only 30% believes it treats self-publishing authors well and over 65% believe that it evades taxes it ought to pay and is killing bookshops. It clearly needs to address these issues urgently.”

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