The minister of state for digital and culture, Matt Hancock, said he "cares" about writers making a living and has vowed to "do all I can to support" authors at Society of Authors' summer party.
As the organisation celebrated its 10,000th member with a summer party on the fifth floor of Waterstones Piccadilly in London on Tuesday night (17th July), the politician said writers should be financially recognised for their work.
“As a minister in the Department for Culture, of course I care deeply about publishing and authors and creativity and about the creation of content, but more I care about making sure that when you write something then you can make a living out of it,” he said.
The minister added he would do his utmost to support authors’ rights. “The PLR, of course, is important for that but is only part of the piece so when you’re pushing for changes, you can know this about me, you are pushing at an open door and I will do all I can to support you.”
He added: “We all know what it’s like to stare at the page or the computer screen without a clue of what the next word will be and we all know what it’s like to get that final editing done and the only thing I can say about extending the PLR to e-books is that I was delighted to declare an interest in the House of Commons as I took it through.”
The government announced in February that it would expend PLR to include e-books and e-audiobooks, meaning their authors will be eligible for payment in the same way as those whose physical books are borrowed from libraries. It became law in April which the SoA heralded a "truimph".
Hancock, who wrote 2013 economy title, Masters of Nothing: Human Nature, Big Finance and the Fight for the Soul of Capitalism (Biteback Publishing), said he hoped that UK writing would continue to go from "strength-to-strength". He said: “I look forward to working with you to make sure that the SoA, all 10,000 members and all the potential members, can keep those creative juices flowing and that British writing can go from strength-to-strength.”
It was also announced that Lady Antonia Fraser, who has been a member of the Society (SoA) for more than 50 years, will be endowing two new grants for the foundation for £3,000 each for a writer and biographer of a woman.
The author described it as a “thrill” to celebrate the 10,000th member of the alliance.
She said: “I joined the society over 50 years ago at the suggestion of another writer, the later, great Francis King and I think that’s quite a common pattern: authors suggesting membership to others based on their own good experience.”
Fraser had made "lifelong friendships" from the organisation and said she believes the 10,000 members will have “privileged experiences”.
She said: “I was fortunate enough to be part of the great campaign over Public Lending Right (PLR) which finally went through. Of course, this is never a subject which will be done and dusted. I learned that any campaign for the greater good contains a certain creative tension between the campaigners and this was certainly true of us then.” The UK established the PLR Act in 1979.
The writer and biographer, who also co-founded the Authors’ Foundation, said that grants proved more important as writers’ salaries stagnated. She said: “We [the SoA] have gone from strength to strength…Since authors’ fortunes have not gone from strength to strength I feel that the Authors’ Foundation grows more necessary each year.”
In June, the Society handed out awards worth a total of £94,000 were handed out at an event at the Army & Navy Club in London to authors including debuts by writers under 35, poetry, fiction, historical biography.