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Public Lending Right for authors in the UK and Ireland. A guest post by Merle Erith.


Lots of writers don’t really take much notice of PLR (Public Lending Right) thinking that it isn’t worth bothering about if they only have one book in their backlist but it is so easy to do that this is a bit of a spurious argument. For the sake of about ten minutes spent registering and then a few minutes every year (assuming another book or even some more books have come out in the last twelve months) to add works, you and, more importantly, your heirs and assigns, will get PLR for seventy years after your death. So, you will get some ‘fun money’ for the rest of your life and your great grandchildren will be raising a glass to you for years.


Something to remember when thinking about descendants, is that books which are not all that popular now can get a cult following years down the line. Many of the ‘golden age’ crime novels which are now everywhere only sold a few copies when they came out but now are good earners. How nice to think of your grandchildren’s children going on holiday on the strength of your book!


Amounts ‘per borrow’ change yearly and the amounts paid out vary from £1 to a maximum (currently) of £6,000 and all UK resident authors are eligible. You also get a share of borrows in Ireland, but these are currently small. Even so, it is ‘free’ money and about the only time your books will earn you money without you having to put pen anywhere near paper. If you aren’t already signed up, just search ‘PLR’ and you will get taken to a very simple website where you can register. Then, new books have to be added by 30 June every year, although it’s easiest to do it when the book comes out – as soon as you have an ISBN, essentially – and don’t forget, you can also register audio and large print.


People are sometimes confused to have a very small payout because they know their book has been borrowed extensively locally, but the libraries doing the counting change regularly, so that ‘local interest’ books might lose out, as they are not in many libraries. It is still worth joining, though, because if your local library is chosen next time, you will be in the money, big time!


PLR collection is now in the hands of the British Library and they have streamlined the system immensely from a slightly rocky start. You can search for editions of your books by just putting your name in or even just a buzzword. Give it a whirl – it’s simple to do and even if you only get the minimum payment this year, it’s a bar of chocolate at the least and it’s fun to see the breakdown of how many people have been enjoying your books.


On a similar subject, the ALCS (Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society) is easy to join and they use the same list as the PLR. They collect money worldwide for photocopying and other uses of your books, even if only a page or two has been used. Again, it is simplicity itself to join and since last year, some affiliated second hand bookshops pay royalties on sales so your books can be the gift that goes on giving. More shops are coming online to this plan all the time and so it is very worthwhile joining.


Come on, it’s cold outside. Use the time you would have spent mowing the lawn on listing your books and make yourself a little bit of pocket money down the line!


For more information on the British Library's Public Lending Right, please click here.


Merle Erith is the author of Let’s Write Right: An Aspiring Authors’ Guide to Writing, Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing. For more information on that title please click here.

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