The Authors Guild recently completed a survey of its membership on the immediate impact of the COVID-19 crisis, receiving 940 responses. We thank the members who responded. The Guild asked a series of questions designed to gauge how the ongoing lockdown has affected authors, specifically when it comes to their incomes and other financial concerns. The first question asked of our members was a rather simple one: “Has your income from any source declined in recent weeks due to the crisis?” 54.1% responded “Yes,” compared to 45.3% who responded “No” (the remaining 0.6% did not answer).

For those who responded “Yes,” we then asked them to name the source of the missing or declining income (they could name more than one if they were missing income from multiple sources). Unsurprisingly, given the nature of the current crisis, 232 authors pointed to “Speaking/performance engagements cancelled,” which was by far the most identified missing income source. Following that was “Journalism” at 93 authors, then “Non-writing related work – furloughed or laid off” at 87, “Partner’s loss of income” at 75, “Book contracts cancelled or payments delayed” at 52, “Loss of book sales or revenue through self-publishing” at 45, and two different categories of “Teaching position – furloughed or laid off,” with writing-based positions identified by 34 authors and other subjects by 26 authors.

Next, we asked our authors if they were unable to work because of a personal reason, with three different options. 63 authors indicated they could not work because children were at home. Another 40 authors said they couldn’t work because of their own illness. 28 authors said they couldn’t work because of an illness in the family.

We then asked if the authors had either just published a new book or were going to publish in the spring or summer. 46.1% indicated they had either recently published or would soon publish a new book, while 48.6% said they were not publishing at this time (an additional 5.3% did not answer the question). Of those with a recently or soon-to-be released book, we asked them if they were concerned about sales being lower than expected (or if they had already experienced lower sales, if their book was already out). A staggering 74.1% said they were concerned or impacted, compared to just 25.9% who indicated they were not.

On the subject of whether or not they’re doing more online marketing than in the past, 37.2% of respondents answered “Yes,” compared to 51.5% who said “No” (11.3% expressed no opinion). Another question asked whether members were having any issues with publishers not fulfilling terms of a contract, cancelling or threatening to cancel a contract, or not signing a deal that was close to final. The responses here were encouraging, with just 8.2% of authors saying this was the case. 84% answered “No” to this question, with another 7.8% declining to answer.

For the 8.2% of authors who did indicate some sort of issue with a publisher, we asked them to explain their issue further and then broke these down into categories. 21 respondents indicated their contract or publication was on hold, with many indicating they were simply not hearing back from their publisher despite previously being in the midst of negotiations. 19 authors indicated they were having an issue with a delayed advance or royalties not being paid. 7 more authors said their contract or project was cancelled outright.

Finally, for our last question, we flipped things around a bit and asked: “Have you seen writing-related freelance work increase at all?” Unfortunately, just 6.6% of respondents said “Yes,” compared to 80.6% who answered “No” (another 12.8% did not answer this question).

We will be updating the survey over the coming weeks to see how things progress and find out whether our members have been able to obtain federal, state, or other COVID relief.

If you have any questions, please contact us.

Stay safe.