New Survey Finds New York City Writers, Literary Groups Facing Financial Strain
NYC Literary Action Coalition found more than a quarter of writers reported losing significant income amid the pandemic
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(New York, NY) — As New York City leaders commit to a summertime reopening, the city’s cultural scene—and in particular its writers and literary organizations—continue to struggle financially. In a new survey from the NYC Literary Action Coalition, 27 percent of writers reported losing more than $10,000 in income over the past year, and one-third had to cancel at least 10 income-generating opportunities. Seventy-five percent of literary organizations—including nonprofits, bookshops, and other groups that support writers—reported they experienced some financial loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with 14 percent reporting losses as high as $50,000 to $100,000.
Nonetheless, three quarters of writers surveyed said they are committed to New York as a literary hub. The economic impact of the pandemic will challenge the ability of those with lower incomes to stay in the city, however, and that is likely to hit at the diversity that makes New York’s literary community so vibrant.
“This survey makes clear what we’ve been hearing over the past year: Writers are struggling and they need support now,” said Alejandro Heredia of PEN America and the NYC Literary Action Coalition. “We know that across the city, arts and culture will need a shot in the arm to survive and thrive post-pandemic, but we’re cautioning both the current mayor and whoever his successor may be: Don’t leave writers behind.”
The survey published today polled nearly 500 writers and literary organizations and found that authors, writers, playwrights, and editors have had to cancel readings, book launches, screenings, and other events and opportunities. The poll found that bookstores have lost income because of limited in-person shopping and programming, and some stores and literary organizations have had to lay off employees and end their lease agreements. These losses come at a particularly vulnerable time as many writers, authors, and journalists work in industries that have faced turmoil and instability amid an economic downturn—and have exacerbated existing inequalities within the writing world.
“I think NYC will remain a literary hub,” one respondent wrote, “but as a result of the financial strain, that literary hub will mostly consist of more privileged (likely majority-white) writers who can afford to ride out the pandemic, while low-income (and more diverse) writers will have to leave NY when it becomes financially unsustainable.”
Still, writers and literary groups have remained resilient. The survey found that 74 percent of writers polled have other sources of income—and a similar percentage reported that despite the downturn, they are eager to stay in New York City. Bookstores and other literary organizations have opened their virtual doors to events that uplift local writers, and in some communities, bookstores have provided a staging ground for mutual aid efforts and activism.
The Coalition today urges the mayor to establish a liaison officer to literary groups and writers in the city, as it has done for other cultural and artistic sectors like theatre, and is pressing Mayor Bill de Blasio to include support for the literary arts as a separate line item in the upcoming budget. The survey’s publication comes a week after the NYC Literary Action Coalition published a series of interviews it conducted with leading mayoral contenders who across the board expressed support for the literary arts and committed to earmarking funds to ensure New York City remains an international hub of literature.