Twice a year, my Twitter feed is inundated with cheery messages from other authors, along the lines of “Just received my PLR cheque – £129 for my loans this year!” and “I love PLR – cheers for my cheque!”. For the uninitiated, PLR stands for Public Lending Right, and it is a small payment made to authors (and illustrators, editors, translators and audiobook narrators) whenever a book is borrowed from a UK library. At the moment, if their book is borrowed the author is given 11.26p. The money is handy, of course (an annual cap of £6,600 is set so that the most popular authors don’t run off with millions) but what is really exciting is seeing your books being borrowed. Or I imagine it is really exciting. For I have yet to benefit. Let me explain.
Despite the availability these days of extremely accurate borrowing data, PLR is still calculated on a old-fashioned method, using loans data from a sample of thirty regional library authorities (there are 151 in total) which is then multiplied to provide a national estimate. I have donated the Sam books liberally to my various local libraries – but they are all in the Cambridgeshire library authority. Which was last part of the PLR sample in 2010. This means that the PLR scheme, by not looking at Cambridgeshire, knows nothing about my books and so does not include them in its calculations. Sadly, the sample proposed for the year ending June 2022 does not include Cambridgeshire, and nor does the one ending June 2023. I have written to the PLR people a few times, asking why – given that all libraries these days keep digital records of loans – they can’t simply use complete data rather than a sample, but they’re not keen. I’ve blogged about this before, way back in 2015, but nothing has changed since then.
So here is my plea. If you are a library user, please ask your library to stock books by your favourite authors – which may even include me. The more widely our books are stocked, the more likely we are to be lucky enough to get into that PLR sample and therefore become eligible for a share of the pot. You can check here to see whether your local library authority is part of next year’s sample group – yes, that’s you, Suffolk, Camden, Oxfordshire and Cornwall, for instance. And it’s not just about the money: I dream of the day when I receive a PLR statement showing that people are borrowing my books because I know how much I love libraries, and what a thrill it can be to find a favourite author’s back catalogue just waiting for you to borrow, or to discover a previously-unknown author whom you grow to love.