I forgot to tell you all about this. One of the benefits of having an ISBN on your books is that it is very easy to register them with the Public Lending Rights – PLR – scheme here in the UK. The PLR people keep track of library loans, and pay authors 6.6p each time their book is borrowed (up to a maximum payout, so that JK Rowling and Lee Patterson don’t drink the well dry). So as soon as “Fatal Forgery” was ready, I registered it with the PLR people and then dashed into my local library (Cambridge Central) and handed over two copies as a gift. I did the same with “The Man in the Canary Waistcoat”. And then (I know, I know – I can see from here that you’re rolling your eyes pityingly) I checked the online library catalogue about once a week to see if my books were out on loan. And quite often they were! Great excitement, imagining Sam soaking up the rays on a beach in the Bahamas or hiking manfully up Kilimanjaro – I know how he likes to travel.
The PLR statements come out in January, with payments made in February. Now, I wasn’t expecting any money: the deal is that you will get a cheque only if your 6.6p-per-loans add up to at least a pound – so at least sixteen loans. But I was looking forward to seeing my loans itemised on my statement – proof that I was a real author with real books being borrowed by real people from a real library. But the statement arrived, and nothing – nada, zip, niente, not a loan in sight. I contacted the PLR people, and they explained it thus: “Unfortunately, we do not collect loans data from every library in the country. Rather, we collect a sample of data from all regions and we use this to estimate the number of national borrowings. Cambridgeshire was last in our sample in 2010 so this would explain why we have not picked up any loans of your books.” Aaaaargh! Wailing and gnashing of teeth and rending of garments! I had assumed that with computers and all that cleverness, the system would accurately record all loans and do a big add-up, but no, it’s sampling and I’m just not being sampled.