Author Incomes in Steep Decline

The Writers' Union of Canada
Press Release

For Immediate Release

A 27% drop in last three years suggests educational copying is devastating writers’ livelihoods.

The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) today released the results of its 2018 income survey report. Entitled Diminishing Returns: Creative Culture at Risk, the report documents a 27% decrease in writing income over the past three years and a 78% decrease over the last twenty years (taking inflation into account). Despite book publishing being a nearly $2 billion industry in Canada, it is now almost impossible for professional writers to make a living solely from their writing.

“These numbers show a domestic industry in extreme crisis,” said TWUC Chair Eric Enno Tamm. “There are many factors at play but, clearly, the educational copying mess of the last few years in this country has pushed author incomes to the point where writing for a living is no longer viable for all but a few.”

TWUC’s survey asked Union members and other writers to share income realities from the last taxation year, and is a follow-up on a similar survey from 2015. While incomes are decreasing, thirty percent of the writers surveyed indicated they are working more than three years ago. Despite having invested heavily in post-secondary education (53% of respondents indicated they have a Master’s Degree or a PhD), Canada’s writers have seen their professional incomes crater as a result of free copying by universities, colleges, and school boards.

Studies in both the U.S. and U.K. indicate similar negative trending, but Canada’s results are by far the worst. Not coincidentally, Canada is also an outlier in the world with regards to the vast amounts of uncompensated copying that occurs in educational settings.

“We delivered these distressing findings in a presentation at the European Parliament last month,” noted TWUC Executive Director John Degen. “Europe is right now drawing up strong copyright legislation with a direct focus on strengthening creator rights and improving the incomes of its cultural workers. TWUC expects that through the ongoing Copyright Review in Ottawa, Canada will follow Europe’s lead in addressing this crisis.”


The Writers’ Union of Canada is our country’s national organization representing approximately 2100 professional authors of books. The Union is dedicated to fostering writing in Canada, and promoting the rights, freedoms, and economic well-being of all writers.

For additional information:
John Degen, Executive Director
The Writers’ Union of Canada
416.703.8982 Ext. 221

DATE: October 22, 2018