Wednesday, March 14, 2007

British Writers - Economic Migrants?

So there's not much money in being a local author ... but how much do you reckon a UK author earns?

Cole Morton in the Independent reveals the shocking stats:
The average author earns about £16,000*, a third less than the national average wage, it is revealed. So what? They're doing what they love. But hidden behind that figure released by the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) is a grimmer truth: when you take away the superstars who are earning shedloads, the actual figure for the rest is closer to £4,000.

That's less than it was last time anyone looked, seven years ago, and far less than the distant days when the Net Book Agreement kept prices high. Forget living on baked beans in a garrett; this is barely enough to buy stale bread and a tarpaulin for shelter.

And it is only for the lucky ones: fewer authors are being signed up unless they're famous, advances are shrinking, and those who sell only moderately well are dropped, ending careers early.
Especially at risk are the "mid-list" authors - those who have probably published several books, enjoy a measure of recognition and respect, and have a fan base ... the sort of guys most of us would give our eye-teeth to be. One such writer, identified only as "Jane" in the article, works in a supermarket to make ends meet, and consider her best advice to new writers who might also want to eat:
Do something else.
Don't say you weren't warned!


*Have found a nice solution for British authors which will benefit us too.

£16,000 is RM108, 880 - around RM9,000 per month if my maths is right. (I've never passed a maths exam, so ...). Now that is a nice sum of money to earn in Malaysia where a delicious bowl of noodles can be had for RM3.

British authors should migrate here en-masse, apply for Malaysia-My-Second-Home, buy a little condo, eat the world's best food, and live in relative luxury in a beautiful climate, and deal with their publishers and agents via the internet.

In their spare time, they could teach the rest of us the tricks of the trade and edit local publications.


WilsonC said...

Not a bad suggestion at all ;)

sympozium said...

They also don't have to pay taxes here or in the UK.

Glenda Larke said...

You gotta be kidding. I am a local, with 7 books published overseas in six different countries: US, UK, Australia, France, Germany and Russia. I pay taxes, believe me. I also pay agents - anything up to 25% of my earnings when foreign language rights are involved. Plus huge taxes in some countries - and I don't get any tax refunds on the tools of my trade either - computers etc. And bank charges are horrendous in those countries too. As a result I have never come anywhere near earning RM 9,000 a month.

Do something else. Really.

Ted Mahsun said...

When they come here for the Malaysia-My-Second-Home thingy, they can also experience for themselves the wonderful Malaysian Bureaucracy (tm)!

That is if the Jabatan Islam doesn't get to them first. During the night.

Anonymous said...

If British authors ever moved here en-masse, most writers would never survive (which is why I wish they did.) It would really raise the bar here. The poor writers who are being paid way too much will have to do something else. I think book sales are are by and large not really affected by the quality of the prose so much as it is by popularity or even charity.

animah said...

Glenda, I think you need to see someone for tax advice.
But agreed, RM9,000 a month would see about RM3,000 knocked off in terms of Malaysian tax, (if they live here at least 180 days a year)leaving RM6,000. I guess Sympozium is suggesting they live in 3 places a year. Or they could live in a tax haven like the Bermudas.
To Anonymous above - I never like that kind of argument, that having foreigners would adversely affect the locals in terms of work. Why should you think locals can't compete? For a number of years, I have worked with lawyers and engineers both foreign and Malaysian. I can tell you that many Malaysian lawyers and engineers are as good as if not better than the foreigners.

bibliobibuli said...

if you go the malaysia-my-second-home route you aren't supposed to be working as such, but come to think of it, these guys might be paying income tax in the UK still!

we have some very good writers here, animah, but could do with more good editors

ted - malaysian bureaurocracy? shhhh ... you'll put everyone off. and please don't mention banned books or the haze.

Anonymous said...

Bib - I think you just proved one of my pet theories, that if you want people to argue with you, just write anything vaguely in support of the government they lived and prospered under.

Animah - I don't remember saying it would adversely affect anything, raising the bar and the quality of the work is a good thing. And you really can't deny that book sales here are mostly fueled by popularity or charity.

YTSL said...

My immediate (kneejerk?) reaction to this post: If (British) writers can't earn a reasonable amount of money in the U.K., what are the chances that (Malaysian) writers can do so here? :(

Anonymous said...

They generally don't actually. They write for British and American publications, for which they actually DO earn a reasonable amount of money (at least after you factor in the exchange rate.) :)

sympozium said...

I've was informed by an MM2H-er that he receives his pension in the UK, which is exempted from tax because he is not resident in the UK anymore. And because MM2H-ers don't pay taxes in Malaysia, he ends up having his pension untaxed!
Perhaps this MM2H-er was bullshitting me? But he seemed pretty smug about it.

bibliobibuli said...

sympozium - you could be right. i'm very honest - when i work here for a british university and get paid in the UK i declare it here and get taxed!!