If you're a UK author registered for PLR, you can now check your earnings for 2011/12 on the UK PLR website. Just log in here and click on My Statement.
This year (covering July 2011 to June 2012) they are paying 6.20 pence per library loan. Payment was due between 13 and 22 February 2013, so if yours hasn't appeared in your bank account, I recommend contacting UK PLR to ask why.
For those who don't know, PLR (in this context) stands for Public Lending Right. The UK PLR Office distributes money to UK authors based on the number of times their books have been borrowed from public libraries in Britain in the last year. This money is paid to authors as compensation for their presumed lost royalties on sales.
All UK authors are eligible for PLR (even if they don't currently live in Britain), but you do have to register with the UK PLR Office first. If you're a UK author with at least one published book to your name, therefore, you should sign up immediately to get what is due to you.
Non-UK nationals cannot claim from the UK PLR Office, but many other countries (though not the USA) have schemes in place to compensate writers for library lending. Australia, for example, has what appears to be quite a generous program, though payments are based on the estimated number of copies of an author's book in libraries, not total loans. For more information on PLR schemes worldwide, visit the PLR International website.
In many countries there are also reciprocal arrangements to compensate non-nationals for lending in the country concerned. In Britain this is co-ordinated by ALCS (the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society), and UK authors should also register separately with them. ALCS also pay out photocopying fees to authors. I received my annual ALCS statement in the post at the weekend, and payment has now also appeared in my account, I'm pleased to say.
I always find it interesting to study my PLR statement. One message that comes across very clearly in the latest one is that library lending is down generally - partly, I guess, as more and more people switch to e-books and the Internet.
But I'm still earning some PLR money even from books that were published quite a few years ago. My book The Internet for Writers was published in 1999, for example, and must be of purely historical interest now. Still, it got borrowed from libraries 74 times last year, earning me the princely sum of £4.59!
While my PLR fees have been going down in recent years, my ALCS payments have been rising, to the point where this year they exceeded my earnings from PLR for the first time. It's perhaps worth pointing out that a large proportion of this money comes out of the bulk fees paid by institutions such as universities for photocopying rights - so even if your book is never actually copied (and declared) you will still earn a bit of cash from it.
Over the years I have made literally thousands of pounds from PLR and ALCS payments; in the case of some books I have earned more from these sources than I have in publisher fees or royalties. So if you're a UK author, it is definitely worth taking the few minutes needed to register yourself and your book/s with UK PLR and ALCS. Otherwise, you really are leaving money on the table!
Photo credit: Alan Cleaver on Flickr.