How writers can maximise their income

The full report into Authors Earnings published last month highlights that conditions for working writers is deteriorating.

The study, commissioned by ALCS, and carried out by CREATe found that author earnings are in sharp decline. Earnings fell by 42% in real terms since 2005 with the average author now making just under £10,500. A small minority of authors, around 10%, earn 70% of the total earned income.

Publisher’s advance and rights sales still make up a significant part of an author’s income but the research found that authors are having to take on additional work to sustain their writing careers and supplement their earnings.

Here’s our guide to how authors can maximise their income:


Set up by writers for writers, ALCS collects monies owed to writers from secondary rights and licensing.

In March 2019, ALCS distributed £24 million to more than 84,000 members. 81% of payees received between £100 – £1000.

All types of writers including journalists and screenwriters can sign up to ALCS. Lifetime membership is £36 and any monies owed are paid twice yearly.


Marking its 40th anniversary this year, Public Lending Right (PLR) is the right for authors to recover payment for the loans of their books by public libraries.

In February 2018, PLR distributed £6 million to more than 22,000 authors at a rate of 8.20p per loan. Authors receive payments between £1 – £6,600.

Since July 2018, the PLR started to collect remote e-books loans data. Payments from newly eligible loans will be paid for the first time in Feb 2020.

Authors can sign up to PLR for free but must do so by the deadline 30 June 2019.


Arts Council England

Arts Council England (ACE) supports artists including writers through a number of grants programmes.

Writers can apply for a National Lottery Project Grant all year round for specific project activity or a Developing your Creative Practice Grant to carry out research and development activities and make a step change to their practice.

ACE has awarded over £2 million in the first four rounds of Developing your Creative Practice.

Round six of Developing your Creative Practice is open until 11 July 2019.

Royal Literary Fund

The Royal Literary Fund is a benevolent fund for professional published authors.

Authors who have commercially published works and are facing hardship can apply for help from the RLF through their grants programme.

Royal Literary Fund Fellowships offer professional writers the opportunity to work for two days a week in a university helping students develop their writing skills.

The fellowship scheme is currently closed and will re-open in late November 2019.

Society of Authors

The Society of Authors (SoA) runs a number of grants for writers thathelp fund works-in-progress and support authors in financial difficulty.

The SoA currently awards over £360,000 each year for works-in-progress.

Annual deadlines for applications are 1 April and 1 September.

The SoA also provides grants for contingencies which can help professional writers who need additional support or are facing hardship. Applications can be made via post or email at any time.


Gone are the days when a writer would spend most of their time stuck behind a computer. Now, speaking at literary festivals or delivering author talks to schools can be a lucrative secondary income stream.

With more than 350 literary festivals taking place across the UK, authors are increasingly being invited to speak about their writing. Literary festivals tend to pay all writers appearing at a festival the same fee, with some offering accommodation and travel. The average fee for an appearance at a literary festival is between £100-£1,000.

Authors delivering talks to schools can expect to earn substantially more per day (with many earning more from school visits than royalties from sales) and may be asked to run a workshop as part of their appearance. Children’s authors often use this as a means of regular income.

Check the SoA website for a guide on rates and fees.


A popular route for many writers is to take up a teaching post. Authors can guest-lecture at universities or teach at a further education college. Many writers with the necessary academic qualifications choose to teach full-time, which can enhance their writing practice while giving back to the next generation of young writers.

Current opportunities to teach at university level are advertised via


Mainstream and online publications routinely use freelancers and are actively looking to commission new writers. Repurposing your work for a feature or writing about what you’ve discovered about the business of writing could form the basis of a paid commission.

Rates for freelancers vary. Check NUJ rates for a rough guide.


Literature development agencies periodically advertise opportunities for local writers to be commissioned to produce new work. Commissions are often a competitive process and fees may vary.

Contact your local literature development agency for current opportunities or look out for information on Twitter. BBC Writersroom publishes latest opportunities for screenwriters on their website and ACE’s Arts Jobs regularly publishes the latest opportunities including job vacancies for artists.

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