Without authors there is no culture: ACE publishs report on the impact of Covid-19 on writers and translators in Spain

The situation of writers, translators and playwrights in Spain: survey, report and conclusions by ACE, ACE Translators and AAT Playwrights.

Introduction by Miguel Ángel Serrano, Secretary-General of ACE and Vice President of European Writers’ Council.

Miguel Ángel Serrano, EWC Vice President

The year 2020 is certainly one to forget. But that is not what literary creators do. They are precisely the ones who leave behind a conscience of suffering and, hopefully very soon, reborn hope. That is why we at the Asociación Colegial de Escritores de España decided to promote a project that ACE Traductores, the autonomous section that brings together these professionals, had been working on for some time: to understand how and when Covid 19 impacted on their activity. We also decided to extend it to our other two types of creators: literary writers and playwrights.

The results are summarised in this document. We have also asked the Presidents of ACE, ACE translators and AAT (playwrights) to contribute their qualitative vision, close to the reality of the members. And of course, the General Director of CEDRO, an entity that is an effective collaborator in many of the studies and activities undertaken by the association: also in this one. If the Writers’ White Paper already painted a difficult picture for written culture, somewhat abandoned to its fate despite the tremendous intellectual and economic importance of the sector, the pandemic has exacerbated the poor outlook. Authors, the study confirms, are the weak link in the chain despite the fact that, as ACE’s motto states, “Without authors there is no culture”. Of course, in a situation as dreadful as the one the world has been in for far too long, all sectors are fighting “pro domo sua”. But that is useless consolation. ACE fights against the situation thanks to its constant dialogue, not always smooth, with the administrations, to its relationship with CEDRO, which has made every effort within its means, and finally, to the few or many activities and tools it makes available to its members and also as a voice for the importance of keeping culture alive. The pandemic, like those Russian dolls, seems to hide within itself other smaller, but no less terrifying ones: from the difficult emotional situation of many people (and cultural creators have worked to at least try to accompany them) to the impact on many sectors that will find it difficult to recover or to endure.

547 cultural creators responded to the survey. The results are not flattering, as was to be expected. What follows is a sanguine picture, unfortunately.

From the ACE report:


Clearly, the pandemic has hit the entire cultural sector, not only authors but also performers and the rest of the industry players: bookshops, publishers, theatres and exhibition halls have been unevenly returning to a certain activity. The value chain, interrupted at many points because culture is not considered an essential sector, is making it very difficult to maintain commitments. It can be said, beyond what the study shows, that all actors understand the situation, but it is no less true that for many of them (when we come down to the particular case in particular) they have been or are being hit hard. The main findings that can be highlighted are:

One third of the partners had their book or copyright payments deferred. In addition, it has been observed that the new payment date is generally not reported, and the delays are rather long, usually exceeding 60 days.

Almost half of the respondents had one of their books or projects cancelled or postponed. In terms of the number of cancelled projects per partner, in general it is most common to have had one cancelled, and it seems that it is the playwrights who have had the highest number of projects cancelled. In addition, there is a certain lack of awareness of the resumption dates, as only 30% of the cases were informed of the resumption date of the cancelled projects.

Overall, more than half of the respondents experienced the cancellation of an activity related to their work due to the pandemic situation. Writers were the ones who had to cancel the largest number of activities (presentations, readings, signings, etc.). Activities normally related to the promotion and visibility of their work, the loss of which is detrimental. The presence of writers at book fairs has also been affected, with practically four out of ten writers declaring that their invitations to these fairs have been cancelled.

The Future of Diversity

It is difficult for any citizen to foresee the future of work in the face of a social, economic and political change that goes beyond what we have been used to.

The socio-occupational earthquake is now underway, and it is not just a matter of time before the end of the crisis. The socio-labour earthquake is about to show its real implications in the near future. It cannot be said that pessimism governs the forecasts of those surveyed, but perhaps that the absolute uncertainty which governs the prognosis of the future is also shown in this sector. In any case, the picture is not a hopeful one…

Four out of ten members think that the income they receive from writing will decrease to a greater or lesser extent as a result of the crisis resulting from covid-19. Comparing the different profiles, translators are the ones who expect their income to decrease the most, and, likewise, they are the group that is most concerned about the prospect of continuing to receive publishing commissions, although this concern is also important for the other two typologies studied.

One of the duties of the Asociación Colegial de Escritores de España is to know and monitor the situation of writers, translators and playwrights. Precisely because its task is to help defend their interests and rights. When we look at the big, gruesome picture of the pandemic, with its defiant death toll, we are overwhelmed by grief. It would be sad, however, if the serious economic, health, social and psychological consequences were to be compounded by the decline of culture: alongside the selfless actions of so many people, it is the human substance of culture that we must all work together to protect in order to secure a better future. ACE will continue to advocate for the protection of what makes us human above all. With its vindictive role and its role as an entity capable of initiating fruitful movements: to defend authors is to defend culture and, ultimately, the future and the heritage of all. This is where you will always find us.

To the full study (in Spanish)

The report was co-supported by CEDRO.