A new survey examining the impact of the pandemic on New York City’s literary community found that 75% of the city’s literary organizations reported some financial loss over the last year; 27% of writer-respondents reported losing more than $10,000 in income; and a third of writer-respondents said they were forced to cancel at least 10 income-generating events.
The survey polled nearly 500 individual writers and literary organizations in New York City and was conducted by PEN America and the New York Literary Action Coalition, a consortium of New York City organizations working to support writers. The survey documented the closing of bookstores and restrictions on in-person events like book launches, readings and screenings, and the resulting loss of income. 14% of the institutional respondents reported losses as high as $50,000 to $100,000.
Despite the pandemic's economic toll, nearly 75% of the respondents said they remained committed to staying in New York City, citing its importance as a key center for American and international literary activity. The survey also found that 74% of the writer-respondents were able to find some other source of income over the past year; and the survey also cited a pivot to online events by bookstores and literary organizations that helped provide support.
The New York Literary Action Coalition has called for the mayor’s office to establish a liaison officer to work with both individual writers and literary organizations, which the city already does with the theater and other arts sectors. NYLAC also calls on the mayor to include the literary arts as a separate line item in the city budget. Indeed, the NYLAC recently conducted interviews with the mayoral candidates, who all expressed their support for earmarking funds to support New York City’s literary community.
PEN America community outreach manager Alejandro Heredia said, “This survey makes clear: 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.”