As you’ve probably guessed by now, most of us don’t write books for the money. It’s an appallingly paid profession, and large numbers of authors have another job to supplement their income. Relatively few can afford to do it full time. But at this time of year, every author – and by that I mean writers and illustrators – gets a bonus.
All books have a copyright, which means that no-one can reproduce them without paying the original author. This makes borrowing books a bit challenging. If someone takes my books out from the library, for free, rather than buying them, how do I get any benefit from that? To make the whole business of libraries work, the government provides a chunk of cash to pay the authors to let their books be borrowed. For last year it was about £6.6 million pounds.
That seems like a lot of money, but there are hundreds of thousands of books, and it covers everything, from gardening to ghost stories, YA to yachting, pie-making to paranormal. And then there is another problem – some authors (I bet you know who!) are being borrowed all the time, so if the money was divided up just based on the numbers, JK Rowling and Martina Cole would get almost all of it and the rest of us would be lucky to have a few pence. So there’s a cap. The most you can earn is £6,000, no matter how often your books are borrowed.
Every time someone borrows a book from the library, someone makes a note. At the end of the year, all the numbers are totted up and a table is drawn up of whose books got borrowed most – a bit like the music chart, but for books. And then the £6.6 million is divided up. Each author gets about 6 pence each time a book is borrowed, and that can add up to a tidy sum. Not enough to live on, generally, but absolutely worth having. Last year (because I have a day job and don’t need it to buy the Persil), I spent mine on inappropriate shoes. I’m enjoying deciding what to spend it on this year!
And it’s another brilliant reason to keep all those libraries open. Without this money, some of your favourite books might not have been written. So don’t forget to use your local library, and object if your local council decides that it needs to be closed down. Save our libraries!