Every now and then I speak to someone who either wants to become a writer so they can make heaps of cash; or who thinks all writers make said heaps of cash.
When I’ve finished laughing and crying (in no particular order) the news must be broken that very few writers make a living out of only their writing, and that significantly fewer than that might consider it a comfortable living.
Writing: not a shortcut to fame and wealth
The truth is that while some particularly well-known writers, perhaps whose works are being made into films or TV shows, might be making a good (not necessarily wealthy) living from their work, most of us earn much less. A 2015 report into the income of Australian authors reported the median income as only around $2,800 a year. Even an “average author’s income” of $62,000 included only $12,900 made from actual writing.
In truth, these figures are particularly discouraging if your main reason for writing a book is the intent to write a bestseller and become fabulously rich. If the writing of bestsellers was that predictable, every book would be a hit.
While it’s tough to make a living solely from writing, writing can certainly be part of making one’s living. Some of my writing-related income is derived from delivering talks and workshops, as well as providing writing-related services (mentoring, assessments, proofreading, copyediting, and editing).
Luckily, for Australians at least, some other ways of making income from our writing exist.
Public and Educational Lending Rights
In Australia, The Office for the Arts has a payment scheme for books that are in libraries! It’s why one of the huge things you can do to support an author is to request your local library to get a copy. As long as a writer’s book is in at least 50 libraries, they are eligible to receive an annual payment for Public Lending Rights (PLR) and/or Educational Lending Rights (ELR).
The program isn’t only for writers – it covers Australian publishers, authors, editors, illustrators, compilers and translators.
At present, PLR/ELR only covers works that are in physical print form. The Australian Society of Authors is campaigning for it to expand to include ebooks and audiobooks as well, as these can now be borrowed through apps like Borrowbox.
If you’re an Australian creator (wherever you live) or a creator resident in Australia, and you haven’t registered to receive PLR and ELR payments, review the program details for your eligibility and sign up if you meet the criteria at:
The deadline for submitting new title claims closes 31 March each year, so if you think you might be eligible, take a look now!
The Copyright Agency
I write fiction for fun and occasional profit. I’ve also written non-fiction with a by-line. Fortunately, there’s a payment scheme for non-fiction writers and journalists too!
Australia’s Copyright Agency collects the licence fees charged when government or educational institutions use part or all of your text.
I have small number of articles in a few magazines. Last year, I earned a tiny sum after I finally remembered to register them with the Copyright Agency.
So if you’ve written non-fiction articles, you may be eligible to register them and receive occasional licensing fees! Read more at:
So there you have it, new writers of Australia. A few ways to make money from writing that you have already completed, for very little extra effort. Do keep encouraging your extended friends and family to support you by asking for your books in their local and school libraries, because that can materially help you earn that little bit more out of doing what you love.
(And it might also help them understand that writing is not the Get Rich Quick Scheme that some seem to think it is!)