Most Scots writers on less than minimum wage

The average income from writing of Scotland's 2,600 professional authors is said to be just 6,000 a year. Picture: Thinkstock
The average income from writing of Scotland's 2,600 professional authors is said to be just 6,000 a year. Picture: Thinkstock
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A MAJOR drive to secure a better deal for Scottish writers and authors was launched today as it emerged 81 per cent of them earn below the national minimum wage.

The average income from the work of Scotland’s 2600 professional writers is said to be just £6000 a year, according to the most extensive ever research into the nation’s literary scene.

The report for arts agency Creative Scotland has warned that writers are having “great difficulty” trying to make a living out of writing, with many combining it with other jobs.

It also revealed widespread discontent at how the nation’s writers are promoted at home and abroad, with calls for greater “championing” of Scottish literature.

It also calls for a widespread overhaul of existing support for writers and publishers in a bid to make the industry more financially viable, including the creation of a new international body to promote Scottish writers overseas.

A major industry summit will be held in Glasgow at the end of this month to address issues thrown up by the report, by consultants Nordicity, which has 38 recommendations.

They found that Scotland’s publishing industry - which is described as “economically fragile” - has shrunk in the space of just four years, with 25 fewer firms and 400 jobs lost.

Key measures including making funding more accessible to writers at various stages of their careers, securing a fairer deal for authors appearing at festivals and events to address a “wide disparity” in what they are paid, and encouraging more help for self-published writers.

Education bodies will be urged to form new relationships with writers and literary organisations there is said to be a “strong desire” from the sector for greater representation of Scottish writers in schools.

Tourism organisations will be urged to make more of destinations linked to famous authors, literary trails, and existing events and festivals.

The report, which consulted 475 different writers, states: “Connected to all facets of life in Scotland, writers are widely celebrated by readers, but are somewhat under-represented in the media for their contribution to culture and society.

“Like writers around the world, however, they are now facing a number of new and pre-existing challenges – including reduced (or nil) advances from publishers, fewer multiple-title contracts, in many cases declining support in marketing and promotion, and lower royalties yielded from ever-decreasing online book pricing.

“Most Scottish writers are insufficiently compensated for their work – 81 per cent of Scottish writers responding to the survey earn below the national minimum wage.”

The report advocates the creation of Scottish Literature International to raise the presence of Scottish authors and publishers, who are largely left to their own devices overseas at present. It is hoped the new body, which Creative Scotland is being urged to set up, will help emulate the success of a similar model for Ireland’s literary industry.

The report adds: “Scotland has a growing international profile. The Scottish independence referendum in particular, and the recent political transformation in Scotland have brought the country a higher level of global attention.

“As a whole, Scotland’s literary heritage is a living heritage that continues to be important in mediating the country’s relationship with the world.

“Support for writers, storytellers, promoters, and an industry that maintains and develops international links will not only yield results for the future creative and economic growth of the literary sector and the creative industries more widely, but also enhance Scotland’s international standing.

“However there is a widely held feeling across the sector that not enough is done to coherently showcase, champion and build on these aspects of literature in international terms. This view was widely expressed by individual writers, publishers and organisations alike.”

Jenny Niven, head of literature at Creative Scotland, said: “The report gives really coherent recommendations as to how to champion Scottish literature at home and better promote it abroad, which is a big step forward.

“It is really helpful that the report has looked at other successful international models for supporting writers and publishers, including in Ireland, Norway and Finland.

“We have the same wealth of contemporary talent and a rich historical traditional that we could be promoting, but we are just not doing it at present.

“As individuals, lots of Scottish writers have lots of international connections. They travel frequently, they have personal networks of connections all over the place, but it is not well coordinated.

“Quite a few of our literary organisations have really interesting and diverse international programmes. But some of them are much more visible than others.

“We need to pull all that together so there is a much clearer route for people in Scotland to promote their work internationally, but also have a much more logical shopfront for people externally looking into Scotland. It’s just not connected up at the moment.”