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Author Archive: "Mary Beard"

Can Books Make Money?

There's something a bit humiliating about knowing how popular your book is. One way is to scan the online ratings. My heart quickened when I saw the sales of my recent book on Pompeii, Fires of Vesuvius, reaching double figures on several sites; and it slowed again as it slipped to the hundreds then thousands. But in the UK, a better way of seeing who you reach with what you write is the statistics provided by the Public Lending Right.

This scheme was set up in 1979, paid by the government. It gives British authors a tiny royalty for each time their books are borrowed from a British public library. They don't actually know the real total, of course, but each year they sample a few libraries and multiply from there. And they make a payout on that basis. This year's has just been announced.

Don't hold your breath. In the last twelve months I made all of £22 (slightly down from last year's £24). Out of the 23,000 authors who benefit, more than 17,000 get between £1 and ...


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