Match in the Dark release guidelines on fair pay and conditions for writers
Unless you glean all your knowledge of writers from Murder She Wrote, or those scenes in Steven King movies where the author types ‘The End’ with a flourish, anticipating the enormous cheque winging its way from the publisher, you will know that most authors don’t earn their money from writing.
Generally, writers have other employment, with the Words Ireland 2021 Survey revealing an average income of €24,000—which in the vast majority of cases came from work completely unrelated to writing.
Those who do write full time are often in privileged financial positions, frequently supported by parents or partners. This has an obvious impact on who gets to be published and has contributed to a lack of diversity in the industry.
Match in the Dark, an Arts Council funded organisation, has drafted a new guide to pay, principles, and best practice for anyone who employs or engages writers.
The document was drafted in collaboration with six professional writers: Mia Gallagher, Ferdia MacAnna, Oisin McGann, Nuala O’Connor, Annemarie Ní Churreáin, and Nidhi Zak/Aria Eipe and was endorsed pre-publication by a further 159 writers, along with the Irish Writers Union and Praxis Artists’ Union, all of whom are listed in the document.
In late 2022, Match in the Dark launched the #SayWhatYouPay initiative, where they asked all Arts Council funded organisations to be more transparent about how and what they pay writers for a variety of jobs.
The initiative was a success, with over two-thirds of literature organisations now listing their fees for writers on their websites.
Directors Brendan Mac Evilly and Dani Gill say that the reaction to the document from writers has been overwhelmingly positive—and people are already negotiating fairer pay from prospective employers.
With some guideline fees at least double the current industry standard (for example the suggested rate for a short story is €500, with €250 for a single poem) there is a wide gap for employers to bridge, and the document acknowledges that this is not something that can be done overnight.
The Match in the Dark document is available to view and download here