Chocolat author Joanne Harris says J.K. Rowling's 'Hollywood money' distorts the truth about writers' incomes

J.K. Rowling poses for a photograph with the cast of the Harry Potter adaptations. (Reuters)

Joanne Harris, the bestselling British author of the hit novel Chocolat, has suggested that the "Hollywood money" J.K. Rowling has earned over the years for creating Harry Potter has skewed the public's perception on how much professional writers actually earn.

Harris spoke on Tuesday at an event held at the British Parliament to examine how the country's writers could be paid enough to ensure that British literature stays strong, the Telegraph reports.

This week, a survey commissioned by the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society revealed that the average professional U.K. author earns £11,000 a year, a little more than $20,000 Cdn. This marks an income drop of about 29 per cent since 2005. Less than 12 per cent of the writers surveyed made their sole income from their books.

Harris, who has published more than a dozen books since 1989, said the rare success of superstar authors like Rowling, who earns tens of millions of dollars a year largely thanks to Potter-related book sales and film royalties, can lead readers to believe that many authors are better off financially than they are.

"It's not winning the lottery," she said. "It's a real job, which real people do, and they have the same real problems as other real people. This tremendous mystique about being a writer and the mysteries of what people think we earn as writers, we need to puncture all those little balloons and just make people understand we are not 'the man'."

Part of the issue, Harris said, is the growth of book piracy. People illegally download books thinking they're "sticking it to the man," when the truth is the vast majority of authors are people who can ill afford missing out on book sales.

She said authors need to reach out to the community more so that people could see that "we have children, we have mortgages."

Rowling herself would understand how financially challenging it is to pursue a writing career, as she wrote her first Harry Potter book while subsisting on welfare and supporting her young daughter.