Most authors' incomes taking a hit, SoA's second poll suggests

Most authors' incomes taking a hit, SoA's second poll suggests

The proportion of authors reporting a drop in income since the coronavirus pandemic began has increased, with almost 60% now seeing a decline in their income following the outbreak according to the Society of Author's latest poll, up by over a third from a month ago.

The SoA's initial Authors in the Health Crisis survey, which garnered 1,087 responses between 7th and 14th April, revealed writers were being particularly badly hit by the cancellation of events but were unlikely to be covered by the government's financial support schemes, with 84% reporting they would not benefit form the government's job retention scheme and 85% that they were unsupported by the changes to the terms and conditions of universal credit.

A month later–although the SoA's second-round poll, conducted 12th–19th May, has half the number of participants at just 515–a higher proportion of respondents reported financial losses and a higher proportion stated they are unable to mitigate these.

Up by a third, 57% of the 515 respondents reported that their incomes had declined since the coronavirus crisis hit, compared to 41% the previous survey. Only 15% have been able to maintain a steady income, down from 18%, and less than 5% of respondents were able to say they had bolstered their income in the current climate. A total of 23% reported their financial situation is "still unclear".

In spite of recent Government announcements, more than 7% of respondents said they expected a marked decrease in their income by more than 75% this financial year while 11.79% of respondents estimated a decrease of 51-75%, 21.22% a decrease of 26-50%, 15% a decrease of 11-25%, and 4.52% a decrease of up to 10%. Only 11% hazarded their income would remain "roughly stable" and just 3.5% of respondents anticipated any rise in income. Again, a quarter of the respondents said the situation is "not yet clear".

Meanwhile, although 81.44% said they had upcoming events and public activities cancelled by organisers, less than 3% will be covered by insurance for the loss of income those events would have brought in, either in full or in part. To put into context how important events are to author, 40% of respondents said participation in events made up 75-100% of their total author income. In spite of efforts to reschedule or move events online, 61.89% said they hadn't been able to mitigate any financial losses arising from cancelled activities, an increase from 57% a month ago. 

Recognising that many writers have portfolio careers, 33.25% said they had additionally lost non-author income, with 1.96% (8 people who took part in the survey) having been made redundant, 5.62% (23 people who took part) reporting they'd had to take reduced hours or a salary cut, and 4.89% (20 people who took part) reporting they had been furloughed. However, 57% said their non-writing incomes would be unaffected by the crisis.

More positively, 30% of authors have said they will benefit from the Government’s support for the self-employed, up from 15% last time. But, driving home for the SoA that "far too many authors are still falling between the gaps", 55% said they still do not expect to benefit from the measures. The SoA said this figure reflected the organisation's "continuing concerns" that "more must be done to close gaps in the Government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) and its relationship to the Job Retention Scheme (JRS) for workers on PAYE and Universal Credit (UC) for those ineligible for SEISS or JRS support".

Nicola Solomon, SoA chief executive, commented: "Authors were understandably concerned about supply difficulties and lost sales when the crisis first broke. Many of these have since been resolved although we remain concerned about authors’ declining incomes as a result of the crisis and we will be looking very carefully at what September’s royalty statements mean for our members.

"We are continuing to lobby Government and MPs on the shortcomings of the Treasury’s financial support schemes and, while we were pleased to see the Chancellor announce the extension of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme last Friday, it is clear across both sets of data that far too many authors are still falling between the gaps in Government support and that a majority of them have not since been able to mitigate their financial losses.

"We are still concerned about the financial viability and diversity of the publishing and creative industries following the crisis, and we are working with organisations across the piece to ensure that we have a vibrant arts scene once we settle into a ‘new normal’ and that the Government fully understands the scale of the challenge facing the arts and creative industries."

The SoA plans to run a third round of its survey once the effects on royalty statements and of round two of the SEISS are known. Meanwhile the Authors’ Emergency Fund is still open for applications for small grants.