Irish Writers’ Union issues pay scales to address low incomes

Match in the Dark claims some arts bodies have not passed on increases in State funding

The Irish Writers’ Union has issued pay scales to address low pay in the publishing industry.

Match in the Dark is a document drawn up with the support of dozens of writers. Six writers developed the document’s principles: Mia Gallagher, Ferdia MacAnna, Oisin McGann, Nuala O’Connor, Annemarie Ní Churreáin and Nidhi Zak/Aria Eipe.

Dozens of others including well-known authors such as John Banville, Sara Baume, Jan Carson and Donal Ryan gave their reflections on the document before it was published.

Match in the Dark concluded that many organisations in receipt of state funding to pay writers have received significance increases in funding “without implementing proportionate increases to rates of pay”.


The authors concluded: “If it is acknowledged that the fees currently offered to writers do not add up to a reasonable income, the only adequate response is to seek increased fees for writing and writing-related work.”

The union set out five core principles. Firstly a writer should get paid if other people working on projects are paid. If an organisation cannot afford to pay professional writers appropriately for their time and work, they cannot afford to undertake the project/publication/event.

Travel expenses and accommodation should be offered where appropriate. It should not be assumed that a writer would want their talks recorded as it could detract from their ability to get work elsewhere and writers should never be invited to donate their fees back to the paying organisation.

The document sets out a series of guideline fees. A writer should be paid €500 for a short story or essay and €250 for a poem. Reviewers should be paid €400 for each book review and a writer in residence should get €200 a day.

A writer should expect €500 for a solo marquee or festival event and a similar amount for a keynote address or masterclass, €350 for a solo event in other contexts/locations, €500 for chairing or moderating a talk and €250 for a five- to 10-minute slot.

It also ponders whether it is ever acceptable not to pay writers. It concludes. “‘For the exposure’ is perhaps the weakest and most insulting excuse not to pay a writer or artist,” it says. “Exposure on its own, even where it leads to increased book sales, rarely leads to substantial increased royalties and, when time away from writing is taken into account, can result in a net loss to the writer. If an organisation can’t afford to pay writers, then the exposure it offers is unlikely to be of any great value.”

The document can be found here.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times