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What is PLR and why do I want it?

For many creators, Public Lending Right (PLR) payments provide a much-needed annual income boost. So, this week, as PLR statements are sent out across the country, we wanted to share some info with you.


What is Public Lending Right (PLR)?

PLR is a payment scheme funded by the government and run by the British Library. It's based on library loans, and if you're a published creator, you can earn money every time your book is loaned from a UK library. You'll receive a payment directly into your chosen bank account every year - by the end of March at the latest.

When was PLR created?

Denmark was the first country to establish a PLR system in 1946, and today 35 countries have a PLR scheme in place.

Is PLR just for authors?

No! It's for authors, illustrators, translators, photograpers and editors, BUT for a contributor to claim PLR on a book their name must be included on the book's title page.

Is PLR just for printed books?

Also no! You can earn PLR on books, eBooks, audiobooks and e-audiobooks .

Are my books automatically registered?

Again, no - you are responsible for registering your books, and keeping those records up to date. (As an aside, you can only register a book once it has published.)

Similarly, you (and any other creators) are responsible for agreeing the percentage split of the payments. To give context, when you register a book, you will be asked what your contribution was (author, illustrator, translator, photographer or editor) and you will also be asked to input your agreed payment percentage (100%, 50%, 20%, etc). The latter can only be agreed alongside the other named contributors. So, if you're an author of a YA novel, you might claim 95% of the payments and agree that the cover illustrator can claim 5% (if their name is on the title page). If you're the author of a highly illustrated children's title, you might agree to a 70/30 split with the illustrator (again, if their name is on the title page). If you're a picture book author or illustrator, it's widely understood that you'll split the payments 50/50, and it's standard practice for your name to be on the title page. But all of this needs to be agreed, even if only verbally.

Some creators assume this is something their publisher will sort out, but it's not. If you have an agent and would rather they broach the subject with your collaborator, then you can absolutely ask them to do that. Otherwise, it's a case of having the conversation directly with the other contributor(s).

What will I earn from book loans?

The current rate per loan, for PLR year running from 1st July 2022 to 30th June 2023, is 13.69 pence, which sounds low but really can add up. This is down from the rate per loan in 2021-2022, which was a whopping 30.53 pence. At the time, the big jump up to 30.53 pence was flagged as compensating for a pendemic-related drop in library loans. This is supported on the Gov UK website:

As mentioned, the "central fund" - that is, the pot of money that all PLR payments come from - has stayed at the same size as last year, so while a lower number of library loans during the aftermath of the pandemic meant that the rate per loan jumped up considerably, now that library loans are increasing again the rate per loan has effectively reduced because the central fund has stayed the same. For context, the central fund this year was £6.92 million.

Still, aside from 2021-2022, the rate per loan has increased year-on-year as follows:

13.69 pence for 2022-2023

30.53 pence for 2021-2022

11.26 pence for 2020-2021

9.55 pence for 2019-2020

9.03 pence for 2018-2019

Is there a cap on how much I can get paid?

Yes. The maximum payment is currently capped at £6,600. (And, as an aside, the smallest payment you can receive is £1.)

So, there you have it! A whistlestop tour of PLR. Thankfully, all of this info is readily available online, so if there's anything else you want to know, then you will more than likely be able to find it out, but hopefully this is a good intro on the subject.

Please note

In 2023, the British Library was subject to a serious cyber attack that created a huge breach in security which also effected the PLR process. So, currently, the British Library is unable to register new books for PLR but this issue will of course be resolved, so keep an eye on the British Library website for updates.


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