I've just found out about something new, and feeling quite excited about it so I thought I'd share it with you! I'm sure you all know about PLR (Public Lending Right) - where authors get paid a few pence every time their books are borrowed from a public library. But did you know there's a new facility on the PLR website where authors can see the statistics for each book, for each edition, for each year and even for each library area? Wow - I was so impressed when I found it, needless to say I've wasted a lot of time looking at it!
It isn't quite as straightforward as it sounds, because PLR is based on a different sample of library areas each year. So, for instance, my own area (Essex) isn't included every year - and I've always assumed that most of my book lendings are from libraries in Essex, because that's where I'm best known. Not that my personal friends run back and forth to the local libraries taking out my books just to boost my income! - but because I do library events and talks in the Essex area, and interviews on local radio and in local papers etc, which I hope all helps to promote the books. So when Essex Libraries aren't included in the PLR sample, I would have expected my payments to be less - but in fact, I'm pleased to say they've been pretty good each year, naturally increasing each time a new book has come out.
Studying the stats on the website last night, I was amazed by the variation in the different library areas. For instance, I seem to do well in Northern Ireland! And in West Sussex. And Lancashire, and sometimes Leicestershire. Each of these areas has sometimes lent out more of my books than Essex. London, Northumbria, Devon and Cornwall are other areas where I've sometimes had a good 'score'.
As I said, I'm afraid I spent far longer than I intended, browsing these stats and wondering about them. I can't help wondering WHY one particular book would do particularly well in Devon, for instance, or why they all seemed to be popular in Northern Ireland and West Sussex! (Thanks, everyone in those areas!). Obviously some library areas must have ordered more copies of one, or all, or my books than other areas did - or they've placed them in more beneficial places on the shelves perhaps! But why? I'd love to know whether there were librarians in some places who just liked my books, or whether it really was that readers in those areas were enjoying them and recommending them to their friends. It's a lovely thought but I bet the answer is more prosaic than that!
It was interesting too, to see how the lendings peaked - usually in the year AFTER publication - and then began to tail off, but the earlier books are still being borrowed. My first book 'The Trouble With Ally' was published in 2003, and was still being borrowed a few hundred times during the last year that figures are available for (2009/10). That's quite reassuring and also confirms what I've always said: that when books are actually out there, being seen, people can choose books they like the look of, read them and hopefully enjoy them. But sadly when they're on sale in the shops it's for such a short time, and unless you're a best-selling author they're often tucked away on the back shelves - so they don't even get seen.
Thank God for PLR - thank God for the library service and readers who borrow from libraries!
If you're a published author pop over to the PLR website now and have a look at your stats. And if you work in a library maybe you can help to explain those variations to us!