A statistical portrait of Quebec writers
(Les écrivains québécois : un aperçu statistique, Optique culture, no 3)
IssueSituation of artists
This brief report outlines the situation of the estimated 1,510 writers in Quebec, based on a survey of writers who are on the member or applicant lists of professional writers’ associations, the Quebec arts council (Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec), and the Quebec copyright collective (COPIBEC). The report finds that, while the median personal income of Quebec writers is $39,400, their median earnings from literary creation are only about $2,500. On average, Quebec writers spend 43% of their work time on literary creation.
In general, writers who spend more time on their writing rather than other occupations have lower personal incomes. In fact, those who spend more than two-thirds of their work time on writing have median personal incomes of $27,800, compared with nearly $50,000 for writers who spend less than one-third of their work time on writing.
Using writers’ creative earnings as well as socio-demographic and professional information, the report proposes a typology of six groups of writers:
1. The “emerging writer”, representing 14% of all Quebec writers, publishes at least one book per year yet has creative earnings below $5,000 per year. There are more women than men in this group of writers, and they are the youngest group (under 44 years of age).
2.”Double-life” writers draw most of their income from work other than their literary creations. This is the largest group of writers (representing about 35%) and the group with the highest personal incomes (over $60,000). Publishing about one book every two years, double-life writers have literary earnings that are less than $5,000 per year.
3.”The literary” group of writers is the second-largest group, representing 27% of all Quebec writers. They are highly educated (often with a masters or doctorate in letters) and spend all of their time on their literary work. These writers tend to be 65 years or older and female, and they typically earn more than $20,000 per year from their creative work but less than $30,000 overall.
4.”Vocational writers” are nearly full-time writers who do not earn very much from their writing. Representing 12% of all writers, they tend to earn more than $20,000 per year from their creative work but less than $30,000 overall.
5.”Second-career writers” represent about 9% of all writers. This group, on average, is older and comprised of more men than women. These writers have retirement income from their previous employers and have a literary career spanning more than 15 years. On average, they publish one book or less every three years.
6.”Successful authors”, representing only 4% of all writers, have high artistic revenues as a percentage of total income. Their income sources often include copyright payments, translation fees, film adaptations and other writing-related activities. These writers spend about two-thirds of their work time writing and publish at least one book per year, on average.