Class, today’s math question is: How many UK authors can you buy for the cost of a single full-page New York Times ad? And we’re going to compare the average median income of a British author, as calculated by the the UK Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society (ALCS), with the cost of a full-page ad in the Sunday edition of the New York Times, as provided by … the New York Times.

“The Times ad, which cost $104,000, was paid for by a handful of the more successful writers,” states the NYT. “In 2013, the median income of the professional author was just £11,000 [$18,834], a drop of 29 percent since 2005,” declares the ALCS.

So, class: let’s divide $104,000 by $18,834. What’s the answer? Just over 5.5. Yes, for the cost of a single full-page Sunday NYT ad, you can buy 5.5 UK writers – assuming they’re willing to sell themselves for a check equal to their entire annual writing income. But in these hard literary times, who wouldn’t? (And don’t ask me what a half of a UK author looks like – if you need to know, just go look on the train tracks near Victoria Embankment after they’ve had their latest meeting with Hachette UK’s commissioning department.)

Oh, and if James Patterson has finished dipping in his pocket to pay for full-page NYT ads to defend his income stream, he can buy 4779.6 UK authors per year from his annual take. With his net worth of $400 million, Stephen King can probably buy every single British author outright – except J.K. Rowling, who tops even him at $1 billion.

These are hard times for authors indeed. All those NYT ads you have to buy to protect your money tap. But there are ways to make the best out of any difficulty. You can always buy yourself a UK author to write the next ad …


  1. Yes, and how much good could have been done with all the executive and lawyerly resources that Amazon has been devoting to bullying Hachette into pricing their ebooks lower so non-Hachette authors, many living on a pittance, will make even less money. I don’t know about you, but I’d be delighted if Hachette priced their ebooks, even their backlist, no lower that $19.99.

    I don’t think I’ll ever understand those who justify bullies, particularly when they’re among the secondary victims. As Michael Shatzkin put it:

    One other aspect of this whole discussion which is mystifying (or revealing) is Amazon’s success getting indie authors to cheer them on as they pound the publishers to lower prices. (The new Amazon statement is made in a letter sent to KDP authors.) This is absolutely indisputably against the interests of the self-published authors themselves, who are much better off if the branded books have higher prices and leave the lower price tiers to them. That seemed obvious to me years ago. Yet, Amazon still successfully invokes the indie author militia to support them as they fight higher prices for the indies’ competition!

    It’s a bit like someone sitting high up in a tree, eagerly sawing on the very limb on which they’re sitting. And for Amazon, no less, which pays the worst author royalties in ebook retailing.

    Like I said, there are some people I will never understand.

    The good news is that Amazon seems to be losing the PR war and matters will only get worse as they go after Disney, Harper-Collins, and a host of others.

  2. The vast majority of the 900+ names on that letter are midlist and lower authors. There are a few Stephen Kings – how else would the protest letter get published? I don’t get your flackery for Amazon? Do you think if you praise them long and loud enough they will give you money? The protest letter is pointing out that Amazon is supresses their access to markets as a way of forcing Hachette to do their bidding. That’s what is said. There is no grand scheme to crush Amazon. You’re being hysterical.

  3. I don’t know about you, but I’d be delighted if Hachette priced their ebooks, even their backlist, no lower that $19.99.>>>

    Good luck selling those. And if they think e-books should be priced higher, then why are Hachette and their authors whining because Amazon removed discounts on their books? Make up your minds. The reality is, publishers want to get their cut of the high retail prices and have Amazon discount and eat the losses. Realistically that was never going to last forever.

    Whenever people complain about the quality of big publishing books the excuse is that it’s all about business. They have to put out books that will sell to bookstores, blah blah blah. We get it, fine. But when Amazon wants to make money they’re evil and the publishers are the gatekeepers of culture. Honestly for the last twenty years I’ve felt that Barnes and Noble and Borders were really deciding what we all got to read, and that’s not a good thing. It’s caused a shocking lack of diversity in what is coming out of the publishing houses, for one thing. A lot of readers got tired of paying for e-books that were overpriced, over-hyped and ultimately disappointing. I’m not doing that any more. Now I have choices and Amazon gave me those choices. I’m not an evil thug devoid of culture because I like a pleasant online shopping experience and some reasonably prices books that I’m actually interested in.

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