Thursday, February 3, 2011

Quick Answers: Blurbs, Library Credits, and Print Runs

If I'm shopping a fiction manuscript to an editor (or agent), how helpful would it be, really, to include a quote from a multi-published, bestselling queen/king/first lady/high priest of the genre? Assuming the writing is solid but you're on the fence about, say, content and marketability, would having a cover blurb in hand for a non-contracted novel sway you in any way? Can a blurb sell a book to the industry pros?
And if that bestselling author has had a policy of not providing blurbs for a while but is making an exception, should that bit of information be included in the query or would it come across sounding too hard-sell and desperate?
If you've got a blurb from one of the big writers in the genre, yes, that carries weight.  It still might not sell the book to an editor who just doesn't like it, but it might really make a difference to an editor who's on the fence. 
The other day, someone told me that authors get some sort of credit that translates into a payout when readers check out their books from the library. I've tried to do a google search but was unable to find anything useful (at least in regards to the US). Do you know if this is true and how this works?
This may be true for digital books; I'm not very familiar with how that works at libraries.  But regular books?  That's RIDICULOUS.   Libraries buy books the same way everybody else does: they pay for THAT COPY and that copy only.

UPDATE: As many many of my readers have informed me (who knew I had such an international audience?), there IS a way for libraries in Canada, Australia, Germany, and the UK (and maybe other places) to pay royalties to authors.  The system (which you can learn more about in the comments) sounds so common-sensical that I can't believe we don't do it in THIS country.
Thank you, my readers, for the enlightenment!
What is a good-sized print run on average? I've been given a very rough figure of 15,500. Is this a good figure?

That's just fine.  Bear in mind, though, that until the figure stops being "rough" it's essentially hypothetical.

40 comments:

christine tripp said...

I'm fairly sure that only Canada and the UK (?) have a lending rights payment set up for Authors, Illustrators and Publishers. The assumption being that lending institutions such as a library or school will yes, buy one copy of a book but hundreds or thousands may read it without any further financial gain to the creators. This also takes into account copying of content.
The way I understand it is, these institutions pay a licensing fee annually and out of that, the proceeds are divided up.
I get 2 cheques yearly, one for Access Copyright, one from Lending rights, and they total somewhere around $600
The author gets the same, the publisher as well.
Of course, the more books you have out, the more popular they prove, the more you get.

Christine said...

Here's how library royalties work in Canada, as explained by Crawford Killian on his blog:

"We Canadians have another kind of royalty, and it's not the Queen. The Public Lending Right Commission goes out every year and visits ten different public libraries. It has a list of books published by Canadian authors, and every time it finds one of those books in the holdings of a library, the author makes about $40. This is to compensate the authors for sales lost because library users are such cheapskates.

If the book is in all ten libraries, that's $400. And when you've published 20 books, many of them held in Canadian libraries, it begins to add up...even for books that have been out of print for 20 years."

It does happen -- I believe there is a similar arrangement in the UK -- and it's not ridiculous at all. It's just that the money doesn't come from the libraries themselves (which would be strange) but from a national overseeing body.

Source: http://crofsblogs.typepad.com/fiction/2003/11/royalties.html

Lindsey Carmichael said...

I'm not familiar with US laws in regard to libraries, but in Canada, it's called Public Lending Right:

http://www.plr-dpp.ca/plr/default.aspx

Authors of published works can register and they receive payments based on the relative number of copies of their titles in Canadian libraries.

Access Copyright also distributes payments based on photocopying licenses:

http://www.accesscopyright.ca/

Kinders said...

It's called a Public Lending Right program. We have one in the UK: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_Lending_Right

Deirdre Mundy said...

EA-- It's a Canadian thing... they get paid for library books like Hollywood people get paid for movie checkouts.

Which sounds heavenly, until you start thinking about the ramifications for libraries. Then it gets a lot more complicated.

(Of course, if your book has a lot of checkouts/holds at a US library, they respond by buying more copies!)

Kelly Andrews said...

In Canada, Britain, and at least part of Europe, libraries do pay library royalties.

Roger Sutton said...

That's true for the U.K. the Public Lending Right, I think it's called.

Thomas Taylor said...

In the UK, and many other European countries, we have Public Lending Right. This compensates authors for the potential loss in sales that library loans may cause. This year the rate stands at about 6 pence per loan.

British authors are very grateful for their feb. PLR payout!

http://www.plr.uk.com/

Anonymous said...

There's nothing ridiculous about royalties on library check-outs. It's standard in many territories, such as the UK, Australia and Germany and government funded. It's a shame U.S. publishers don't lobby for it here.

Gina Black said...

The library payments are made in Canada.

April Henry said...

Carol Shields once told me that Canadian authors did indeed get royalties based on checkouts at libraries. I think they take a sample of libraries and extrapolate from there. We agreed this was quite civilized. I'm pretty sure it's the Canadian government that pays.

April Henry (aprilhenrymysteries.com)

Pepper Smith said...

The thing with the library checkouts happens in (I think) Canada, the UK, and Australia. The amounts involved are usually very small, and we don't have it at all in the US.

R.J. Anderson said...

someone told me that authors get some sort of credit that translates into a payout when readers check out their books from the library.

This is not totally wrong. It happens in Canada, actually, along with many other countries; it's called Public Lending Right, and allows authors to receive a modest reimbursement each year for the use of their books in libraries (and the associated loss of potential sales that may result from that).

Nobody's going to get rich off PLR, but every little bit helps.

Anonymous said...

"This may be true for digital books; I'm not very familiar with how that works at libraries. But regular books? That's RIDICULOUS. Libraries buy books the same way everybody else does: they pay for THAT COPY and that copy only."

Just for the sake for anyone else who wants to search for information, the principle by which libraries can lend out their copies of books is known as "law of first sale" or "first sale doctrine."

Some libraries have experimented with lending out e-readers pre-loaded with books. I think that doing so would work much like lending a paper book. But for lending e-books via download, most libraries use a service called Overdrive. I don't know much about how it works (I'm a librarian, but so far we don't have e-books), but I have heard that libraries usually pay more than direct consumers for the e-books (something like full hardcover price). Whether any more of that price would go to the author, I have no idea. For all I know, the extra money just goes to Overdrive, which is a distributor. From what I've been able to glean, adjustments to the library's lending scale (i.e. the size of its user group) are achieved by the library's purchasing multiple licenses for an e-book if it wants to lend more than one copy at once, much as a library would do for a popular print book.

Anonymous said...

"ut regular books? That's RIDICULOUS. Libraries buy books the same way everybody else does: they pay for THAT COPY and that copy only."

In the UK (and possibly other countries), there is a payment to authors each time their book is borrowed(*), up to a maximum per year.

(*Although only a selection of libraries are monitored and the numbers multiplied up to get an estimate.)

Anonymous said...

Some countries, including Canada, have a Public Lending Right which is defined as "the right of authors to receive payment for free public use of their works in libraries." Maybe this is what the previous poster was asking about?

ColoradoKate said...

Actually, there's something called the Public Lending Rights program, used in the UK and in a number of other countries, by which authors do get paid when their books are checked out of libraries.

I just learned about this recently myself, and was astonished. I have no idea how much authors stand to make by it, though.

[url]http://www.plrinternational.com/established/established.htm[/url]

working illustrator said...

The idea of library users not generating author income aside from the original purchase is an old theme among authors.

When Huckleberry Finn was banned from some libraries in Massachusetts after its publication (in those days it was the 'low moral tone' and not the n-word that got the book into trouble), Twain wrote in a letter:

This generous action of theirs must necessarily benefit me in one or two additional ways. For instance, it will deter other libraries from buying the book; and you are doubtless aware that one book in a public library prevents the sale of a sure ten and a possible hundred of its mates."

He also thought the controversy helped sales, which in that case, at least, was probably true.

Molly O'Neill said...

Hey EA -- may I make two follow-up comments from a fellow editor?

First, if you're selling a book with a blurb, be sure that the big-name author is agreeing that the blurb can be used on the cover/in promotion of the book. It's frustrating and deceptive-feeling for all involved to be told, long after the book is bought, that the blurb was only for the purposes of getting the author a contract, not for helping to promote that book to readers and book buyers.

Secondly, that government payment for library circulation actually isn't a myth! It's called the Public Lending Right Commission. But sadly, it only happens in the UK and overseas, not here in the US. More data here: http://www.plrinternational.com/faqs/faqs.htm#plr

Anonymous said...

The other day, someone told me that authors get some sort of credit that translates into a payout when readers check out their books from the library.

They do indeed. My dad wrote a minor non-fiction book that was published many years ago here in the UK. Not many people borrow it from the library, so once a year he gets a cheque for about 30p. XP

Cheryl

Anonymous said...

Actually, in Canada, authors and illustrators do get paid a small amount for their books being used in the library. It's called Public Lending Right and is funded by a separate government grant. Authors and illustrators register to be part of it. Seven different libraries across the country are surveyed each year. The author gets a payment for each library their books appears in. (The assumption is that the library would not keep it around if it wasn't circulating.) There is a maximum amount per author. It's really nice to get that PLR cheque once a year, particularly when royalty statements can be somewhat depressing these days.

Joanne Levy said...

With regard to authors getting paid by libraries - it is a real program in some countries like Canada (for Canadian authors only).

See how the program works here: http://www.plr-dpp.ca/PLR/program/PLR_program.aspx

AKG said...

I think in the UK the library royalties thing might apply, or at least might HAVE. I remember Neil Gaiman posting something about the government voting to END something like that awhile back, and him being scandalized. I think.

Phoenix said...

Thanks for the run-down and your always straight-from-the-hip answers, EA! Even those of us not shopping children's and YA mss right now learn much here.

Anna Bowles said...

I don't know about 'RIDICULOUS'. Public Lending Right, as it's called, is a vital supplement to the income of a lot of authors in countries like the UK (of course, the UK government is thought to be planning to get rid of it, in tandem with their programme to make libraries better by shutting them down, but that's a whole other story). I might buy a copy of a book and lend it to my friend, but a library will potentially lend their copy to hundreds of people. There is a clear argument for making a distinction.

However, PLR is only affordable in relatively high-tax, high state-spending societies, so I don't see the US going in for it.

Karri said...

EA, I don't know how it works in the US, but in Australia we have a government scheme called Public Lending Rights, which is a cultural program that makes payments to eligible Australian creators and publishers in recognition that income is lost through the free multiple use of their books in public and educational lending libraries.

AnneB said...

Authors in countries who participate in a Public Lending Right program are compensated when someone borrows a book from a library in that country. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_Lending_Right.

Editorial Anonymous said...

Fascinating! the things I never knew about the library systems in the british commonwealth!

Melinda Szymanik said...

We have the Public lending right in NZ although it doesn't extend to school libraries which is especially sad if you are a children's author. But i get a nice cheque just before christmas which comes in very handy.

christine tripp said...

And Canada EA (everyone always forgets about us:)
The "Access Copyright" division is kind of fascinating. It charges a license fee (now, I believe this is how it works, correct me anyone if it's wrong) to institutions and business's that provide the public access to a copying machine. For instance, a few years back a Popular name stationary store was charged with not paying the fee while operating a copy machine.
The assumption is pages from books will be copied and used for presentations etc. There is "Fair Use" for schools etc but not sure how that is factored in to
"Access Copyrights" license. Perhaps schools and libraries pay less or are even exempt?
Pepper, it's not that small an amount of money collected by both organizations. Just the Public Lending Rights alone reported to have taken in and dispersed to 17,000 Canadian Authors/Illustrators, over $9.9 million for 2010:)
Hey, all the Countries mentioned in this discussion also have Universal Health Care too..... and though our Libraries and Schools are well funded, between all of this "Free" stuff, Americans would likely faint to see the taxes we pay to get all this, nothings free right:) So, it's nice to get some of your own taxes back via your own books:)

librariankris said...

Can I defend my profession for just a sec? Don't discount libraries in helping your sales. Study after study has shown that big-time library users are also big-time book buyers. A number of my students and their parents will rush out and buy a book (or the next in the series) after I showed it to them in the library. Librarians also create many of the book awards and lists that contribute to book sales (the Newbery being the most famous example).

I'm all for people getting paid for what they create, but please, oh, please don't take it out of my meager budget! I'm just trying to get as many books as I can for my kids in a world where "buying books" is somewhat of an antiquated notion to administrators and I am fighting for my very existence!!

Rant over. Thanks.

TK Roxborogh said...

We have public lending rights here in New Zealand as well. Trouble is, the money comes from a fixed pool so the more authors who publish and the more books there are published, the more the rate per book goes down. We get paid just before Christmas. It's very handy

shawjonathan said...

In Australia at least the Public Lending Right came into being after long agitation by authors. These things don't happen without organised action, and organised action doesn't happen until someone decides the right thing isn't ridiculous (a bit like free health care).

Buy Exchange said...

Loved reading your posts. Very insightful! Thanks!

Emma Darwin said...

Public Lending Right in the UK is paid for by a lump sum direct from central government - it doesn't come out of individual library budgets. A changing sample of libraries have their figures grossed-up to represent national figures. The current rate is 6.25p a loan (what's that, about 10 US cents?) and payouts are capped at £5000, so the mega-borrowed authors (who are usually big sellers as well) don't bag all the cash. For many authors whose books are not the kind which fill the shelves of bookshops but which are much in demand, or which are out of print but still much read, PLR is the single biggest element of their writing income, and means they can keep writing. It's also a much-needed boost for morale, since it shows that we do still have readers. A couple of fiction titles, in quite a few libraries, can easily add up to 25,000 or 30,000 loans...

Emma Darwin said...

Meant to say, Ireland has just set up a PLR system, which UK authors are entitled to benefit from - and vice versa, as far as I know.

Terri said...

Here is a link to the Australian Government's PLR scheme for those who might be interested.

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