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Making a living difficult for writers

6 Mar 17

Making a living difficult for writers
First writers' survey: most work in another occupation

A new report that looks at how New Zealand writer’s earn from their writing has revealed that very few are able to make writing their fulltime career.

The Horizon Research report, commissioned by Copyright Licensing NZ in conjunction with the NZ Society of Authors, NZ Writer’s Guild and Playmarket, summarises the feedback from 380 New Zealand writers. Respondents were a mix of fiction, non-fiction and children’s book authors, academic and education writers, journalists, screenwriters and playwrights.

On average, only 24% of annual earnings - $13,500 - was generated from writing and most spend the majority of their productive time working in another occupation that is unrelated to their writing. One in five writers had experienced infringement of their copyright and many reported that finding a publisher for their work was becoming more difficult.

Kyle Mewburn, President of the NZ Society of Authors, says, “As the survey starkly reveals, the vast majority of writers are working at a minimum wage job with no insurance, overtime or holiday pay, and absolutely no job security. We really need our local readers to buy more local books from local bricks-and-mortar bookshops. Let’s just consider it an investment in our cultural health”.

Also of note is the fact that New Zealand writers are generally well educated and many are motivated to write either due to a passion for books and reading or a desire to create education materials for New Zealand students.

Paula Browning, Chief Executive at Copyright Licensing NZ said, “This is the first time we have surveyed New Zealand writers about their earnings and other aspects of writing. Improving our understanding of the challenges writers face means can do more to support them. We know that we need a strong local writing and publishing industry so that New Zealand stories are told, both by New Zealanders and for New Zealanders.” The report clearly demonstrates that we need to do more to support our writers and increase their ability to earn a living from writing.

The full report is available at and here.