Authors United warns of attacks on 'author livelihoods' under Trump administration

Authors United warns of attacks on 'author livelihoods' under Trump administration

The new US administration under Donald Trump could make things "very, very much worse" for authors, according to campaign group Authors United.

The group's founder author Douglas Preston told members it was merging with America's largest organisation for writers, the Authors Guild Foundation, to continue its work and fight for author and press freedoms it sees as being "under attack".

Authors United was originally set up in 2014 to push back against Amazon and its treatment of authors in its dispute with Hachette. Preston yesterday wrote to members to say that while it had prevailed against Amazon once, it was "only part of a graver situation that is not going away, but getting worse - and perhaps very, very much worse given the incoming administration".

Explaining why Authors United had decided to merge with the Authors Guild Foundation, Preston told members: "The guild is extremely concerned about potential high-level appointments in areas that affect writers: copyright, anti-trust, libel law, and freedom of the press. The Authors Guild cannot and will not stand by while the livelihood of authors and press freedoms are under attack."

The Authors Guild was praised as an organisation which puts "its money where its mouth is", by taking legal action where necessary and employing a professional lobbyist in Washington, who, with Guild staff, is fighting for legislative proposals that will curb online piracy and prevent expansion of libel laws. 

In addition to working to improve authors' contracts, the guild is lobbying to make sure copyright laws are, in Preston's words, "not whittled away by the scorched earth lobbying efforts of Google, Amazon, and their ilk".

A key area of concern is the fall in authors' incomes. Authors United said debut and midlist authors, writers of serious non-fiction and freelance journalists were "hardest hit", citing a 30% drop in average income for full-time authors to $17,500 in the last six years. 

Preston attributed the difficulty for the average full-time writers to make a living to the digital revolution, which it said had fostered a culture where a large and powerful alliance of corporations, content aggregators and consumers believe that 'information wants to be free' - ultimately devaluing creative content, including books.

"We prevailed against Amazon once but the struggle is far from over," Preston said. "This is going to be a long effort and the Goliaths are only getting bigger and more powerful."

 The Guild will continue the work of Authors United on behalf of writers.