Introducing AuthorSHARE: the world’s first reuse royalty initiative for writers

I’ve been a member of ALCS, Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society, for about ten years, and receive small payments for what are known as secondary rights or uses.

‘We make sure you receive the money you’re entitled to as a writer when someone copies or uses your work. We collect money from all over the world, then pay it to our members. So far we’ve paid a total of £570 million.’

It’s an amazing not-for-profit organisation with over 114,000 members –  all types of writers.

‘The money we collect is for ‘secondary uses’ of their work – such as photocopies, cable retransmission, digital reproduction and educational recording. These sorts of rights typically bring in small amounts of money that are difficult for writers to monitor individually, so the most effective way to gather them is collectively. It takes tireless investigation, as well as experience and expertise. But nowadays, with the help of our bespoke IT systems, we can collect money from all over the world through agreements with over 55 different societies in more than 40 countries.’

Their latest newsletter was full of interesting information, particularly about the benefits of being a member, the current trends in publishing, and how authors can now profit from the secondhand book market.

‘ALCS has collected more than £40 million for the first time ever, paying out £38 million to over 100,000 members’ ‘ALCS members received royalties for the purchase of secondhand books for the first time ever in September 2021, thanks to the new AuthorSHARE scheme. This was warmly received by thousands of writers at a time when every penny counts.’

A grand total of 36,761 writers were allocated a share of the royalties from sales of their used books sold through used book retailers World of Books  (WOB) and Bookbarn International. The ground-breaking new scheme is designed to create a better deal for authors in the used book market – a market growing at 12% annually, compared to 1% for new books.’

I’ve been buying second-hand books from World of Books, for some time, rather than through Amazon; they have enough of my business anyway. Yes, it’s so easy to order from the Mighty A, and next day delivery with Amazon Prime is a bonus if you really can’t wait BUT – think about where the money you spend goes. It’s different  thinking of books as a commodity.

Do authors get enough reward for their hard work?

We’re not talking about writers such as Rowling, Rooney or Rushdie whose sales are in the millions across the world. What affects the average writer is the ways that books are sold and the variety of prices for the consumer to choose from. Look at Amazon prices and supermarket offers. Another slice of the cake, lost to the author. Purchases from independent bookshops or direct from the publishers can spread the money more fairly.

Royalties are pretty low for most authors, often falling below the Society of Authors recommended minimum rate of 10% . I receive 5%  for each new book sold, a book which took two years to research and write, and has continued to sell quite well since first publication in 2013. However, that royalty payment is reduced if the book is discounted. Of course, publishers take the risk of publishing your book. They have to cover the cost of editing, design and layout, printing, marketing and discounted sales to bookshops (so they can make a living too), and administrative and accountancy staff. They will need legal experts to draw up contracts, handle copyright, and give advice if something goes wrong with a book or the author, and the matter might end up in court. You can see now how the book cake is cut up and why I feel that I am  getting the crumbs. £ 9.99 retail price, and I receive 50p, if I’m lucky.

Readers are still buying new books but there has been an increase in used/second hand books, easily available in charity shops and online. Maybe people are more conscious of saving the planet, and recycling books.

Every little step forward in rewarding writers is welcome, and the new scheme with World of Books and Bookbarn International who are signed up to the ALCS  enable second hand books to have a value. They do not charge postage, and WOB offers 20% discount on 3 purchases, and deliver within a few days. They both sell new books.

Even if it’s a few pence more in the author’s purse, it’s recognition of their worth. The same applies to payment from library books. PLR – Public Lending Rights – now under the auspices of the British Library, ensures that authors receive 11.26p per borrowing.

Apart from receiving payments from ALCS, I learn a lot from their newsletters. Of special interest in the latest edition was the number of the authors receiving payments, and which particular subjects are popular.

The highest earning subjects are: Maths, Geography and Women’s History.

Hurrah!! My current book fits the last category.

See my next blog for a  taste of it – and  an image of a St Bernard dog.