Tuesday, 14 June 2011
How I am contributing to authors' cavities...
Stuff and Nonsense by Amy Cockram is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
As I was walking home from work tonight, I thought that I would start listening to my backlog of Guardian Book Podcasts. I am now quite depressed.
I thought that I would start with the oldest on my ipod and work forwards. The oldest podcast happened to focus on the release of Public Lending Rights information, and the statistics relating to the most borrowed library books. In some ways, it was quite a demoralising listen.
According to this podcast, the majority of authors struggle to earn £4000 a year. This makes my fantasy of writing a book and being able to pay off the mortgage seem ever more distant. I currently have better odds on winning the jackpot on the lottery than I do earning a living by publishing a novel. This is, admittedly, partly because I buy a lottery ticket but have not yet finished a novel (or, let's be honest, started one; I am very talented at procrastination and I currently spend rather too much time on Twitter). Also, however, those authors who can make a living solely from writing are the very, very lucky ones.
I have just googled the Public Lending Right, and have found their website. In their media centre you can access lists of the most borrowed authors, and there are also lists broken down by region (I'm pleased to discover that we seem to rate Kate Atkinson quite highly in the South West). In simplified terms, the PLR provides a pot of money from which authors are paid a yearly sum depending on the frequency with which their books are borrowed. According to the amount that I found mentioned in a document published in March 2009, an author gets 5.98p for every book borrowed (although payments of less than a pound are not made, which must be a bit of a bugger if you only had 16 copies of your book borrowed). PLR payments can help to supplement the income of an author who is not managing to garner the big awards, or the patronage of Richard and Judy. These payments aren't automatic - authors have to register - so high earning authors who have less need for this additional income might choose not to dig into this fund.
Previous to listening to this podcast I hadn't paid much thought to PLR, but I like the idea that I am making a small contribution to an author even when I decide to borrow a book rather than purchase it. I would love to have the money and the bookshelf space to support authors and buy every book that interests me, but this just isn't the case. If I did I would need a house to rival the British Library.
So I would just like to say to the authors whose books I currently have on loan from the library - David Hewson, Simon Hall, Chris Ewan, Jane Harris, Gyles Brandreth and Michael Jecks - I hope you enjoy your 5.98 pence from me (if you have registered for PLR). Perhaps you could treat yourself to a penny chew (given inflation, you might just have enough). I recommend Fruit Salads.