Is it a good time to be an Australian author?

The University of Macquarie located in Sydney recently published its research findings on Australian authors.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always enjoyed some good statistics. Blame my marketing background. I even got so excited I created a graph! (see below).

Seriously though, data is power and having some insights into the Australian book industry can only be a good thing for authors.

Below I’ve done a brief overview of the findings with a particular focus on genre fiction authors, because that’s my thing:

did you know The majority of Australian authors are female?

That’s right. Women make up two thirds of authors and outnumber men in most genres. Some other interesting demographics include:

  • 75% write trade (consumer) books, and 28% of those are genre fiction authors
  • There’s an even split (40% respectively) of authors that define themselves as emerging versus those who are established

oh, and we’re smart too!

Australian book authors are more highly educated than the general population, with more than 80% of authors having attended university.

alright, maybe not that smart . . .

We’re not as smart as we think we are though – high levels of formal education are not matched with high levels of income.

dont give up your day job

Sadly the average income derived from being an author is $12,900. Oh, and if you’re a genre author? Lower your expectations a little more:

Avg Australian author earnings


I’m pretty sure I earned more than that when I was a teenager doing casual work around study.

So how do we do it then? (I’ll look at the why later). Nearly half of all authors supplement their income with a job that is unrelated to being an author. Which brings us to . . .

writers have very supportive partners

37.3% reported an important source of income is from an author’s partner (37.3%). That’s right we love you husbands / wives / partners for supporting us in our creative endeavours. Truly.

things are a changing

Despite the little issue of being able to make a living out of our work, it’s not all bad. It’s an exciting time to be an author and over the last five years the uptake of ebooks in genre fiction is changing the way our work is published (84%).

Two thirds of authors have also found the way they interact with readers is changing, with the highest proportion of change for genre fiction authors (87.5%). This is also the same for the way authors are able to access readers with over two thirds using new technologies to do so.

but reality bites

Domestic responsibilities and/or the requirement to earn income limit the time authors are able to spend writing.

What? You want us to get another job? And clean the house? And pick up the children from school? Yeesh. But all I want to do is write!

Over one third of authors are limited by the demands of another job, nearly one third by other tasks associated with writing and nearly one quarter of authors are constrained by time spent on marketing and promoting their work.

that ol’ chestnut ‘discoverability’

Over 20,000 new titles are being released in Australia each year. This means authors are spending more time than five years ago on promotion.  Nearly half say they have the primary responsibility for promoting their work.

So yes, folks, if you want to be a writer, be prepared to do more than write.

we love readers and reviewers

Two thirds of authors regard general reader reviewers as important for their work, especially genre fiction (80%).

many paths to a writing career

Nearly one in five have self-published. More than one third of authors are with more than one publisher, although 42% are with only one.

This is only a snapshot of the report on Australian authors. For more information on the research and findings you can go here.

where to from here?

based on that, do I even want to a be an author?

As I said earlier, data is power. Maybe after reading the findings you’re not sure about writing that book or taking a chance on that writing career?

The sad reality is that while it’s wonderful to pursue our dreams if that reality doesn’t look like something you can afford then perhaps being an author is not your thing i.e. don’t go into it expecting adulation and millions of dollars. I actually think it’s quite refreshing to know what you’re getting yourself in for.

the gender issue

So I’m not going to go into huge amounts of detail here but I think the findings point to another ongoing issue. If two thirds Australian authors are female, why, oh why, is it still so difficult for female authors to receive legitimate coverage?

According to an analysis conducted by VIDA – Women in Literary Arts in 2014, male writers more than 400 per cent more likely to be reviewed in major literary publications.

Clearly this needs to change and thank goodness for organisations such as VIDA, The Stella Prize and in my industry, The Romance Writers of Australia. Fortunately since the last VIDA report, some inroads have been made to improving these figures.

I’ve written more about The gender of books and does it matter? here.

the value of writing (and the arts) to our society

We need nurses. We need doctors. We need teachers. Engineers, scientists – the list goes on.

But when did a career in the arts become a dirty word? I’m not immune. I transferred out of an Arts degree (which I was enjoying) because I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to get a job at the end of it. I did a Business degree instead. While I don’t regret it for a moment, it’s no surprise to me that I’ve come full circle since then.

Our modern world is focused on technology and the economy. And I get that, I really do. I endured and even passed first year Economics at university!

But stories are important too. They are the fibre of our society. Through words we reflect our values, our culture, and our humanity.

As a genre fiction author, I like to think I give those who work hard in those careers I’ve mentioned a reprieve from their lives. A chance to reflect and be inspired.

Instead what do we do? Marginalise  authors to the point where we literally cannot afford to write. Where will that leave us? With a society devoid of words (or music, or art).

Not on my watch. So I’ll keep my day job (because fortunately I enjoy that too), accept the support of my wonderful husband, and keep writing the words I feel driven to put down on the page.

It may not earn me a fortune, but like the other passionate writers in my country (and the publishers who champion us), I’m honoured to be one of those involved in the narrative of our society.

Now I think there’s something I’ve got to go and do . . . Oh, that’s right. Get back to that client, then pick up my son from school, help him with his homework,  make dinner . . .

Do you relate to the findings of the recent study on Australian authors?


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