January brings a boost for published writers, in the form of our PLR statements. Public Lending Right is the scheme by which, every time you borrow a book from a library, the author(s) of that book get paid just over 6p. Not much, but when you’re talking several thousand loans a year, it adds up.
My most borrowed book between June 2010 and June 2011 was Guardians of Paradise, no doubt partly because it is the most recent (and hence fewer copies have gone out of circulation due to wear and tear), but partly, I like to think, because people have read the previous Hidden Empire books and wanted to know what happened next. As well as providing a welcome boost to the writers’ meagre income, there is the pleasure of knowing that, even if not all the people who borrowed a book read it, a few thousand will have; as professional writers we have to always look for ways of making our vocation pay, but writing is a vocation before it is a job, and knowing our stories are being read pleases us.
However, there’s more to the pleasure of PLR than that. It reminds me why libraries are so important; I feel privileged to be part of this wonderful system that allows millions of people to freely access stories and knowledge. Libraries are amazing; they are one of the major achievements of ‘civilisation’. I can only hope that future generations also get to use and enjoy them.