There's been a fair bit of noise lately about how first-time authors are missing out on money from their books. This follows the revelation that Tim Butcher received no PLR payments for his first book, Blood River, which turned out to be the most borrowed travel title of 2007-8.
Because Tim wasn't PLR registered, he missed out on the potentially substantial sum that 29,000+ loans from public libraries would have earned him. It seems authors are unaware of the need to register, and there's no formal mechanism to tell them.
For those not in the know, the PLR or Public Lending Right scheme provides payment from a public fund allocated by parliament, to authors whose books are loaned from public libraries. Payment is made once a year, and the amount authors receive is proportionate to the number of times their book(s) is borrowed during the previous year, from July to June.
Established authors are now calling for better guidance for new authors about the need to register for PLR. True, many agents and editors tell their authors about PLR, but the number of authors falling through the PLR net indicates that some just aren't getting the message. It's a fact that publishers and agents aren't obliged to tell new authors about PLR. And because all the money made from PLR goes directly to the author, it's generally assumed to be the author's responsibility.
And what about the PLR organisation itself, what does it do to disseminate the word? It says it works very hard to reach new authors, but because its advertising budget is part of the total PLR fund, as much money as possible is held back to give to authors.
According to the figures for 2008-9 (the 26th year PLR has been running - it was established by the Public Lending Right Act 1979), of the 315 million estimated loans from UK libraries, 134 million (42%) belong to the PLR register. The remaining 58% of loans relate to unregistered books, books by foreign or now deceased authors (authors can only be registered during their lifetime) and a small number of books which for various reasons aren't eligible.
So, if you need to know more, the Writers' & Artists' Yearbook carries an article on PLR, explaining all the key areas such as eligibility entitlement, loan statistics, and how to apply and when.
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