The trade has pulled together to launch a series of emergency measures to support authors and booksellers affected financially as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society, the Royal Literary Fund, English PEN with the T S Eliot Foundation and Amazon UK have joined forces with the Society of Authors to support authors with a £330,000 emergency fund to be distributed as small grants. These contributions have more than tripled the funds the SoA had expected to distribute this year, with the fund to be called the Authors’ Emergency Fund.
Meanwhile the Bookseller’s Association has unveiled a package of special measures for members and will donate £30,000 to the Book Trade Charity, for hardship grants.
SoA c.e.o. Nicola Solomon said the organisation plans to turn around applications within weeks. She added: “The financial challenges facing authors had become acute even before the current health crisis, with an increasing number approaching us for financial support. But now, they’re seeing unmanageable losses—some seeing thousands of pounds worth of lost contracts in a single day. It was clear that current levels of funding would fail to meet need. We are extremely grateful to the organisations that have contributed so far.”
Philip Pullman, president of the SoA, said: “At a time of crisis, when part of the crisis consists of not knowing enough about the crisis itself to be able to plan with any certainty, it will be enormously reassuring to many authors to know that this fund exists. It’s especially good to see these excellent bodies acting together to support the cause of authorship, in all the fields where authorship takes place. The work of a modern author consists not only of sitting at a desk thoughtfully putting words on paper, but also of speaking, lecturing, visiting schools, teaching courses and other activities that involve meeting groups of people, and these are the very things that the COVID-19 pandemic is making impossible. With the cancelled event or visit there also disappears, of course, the author’s fee. This is the situation that many of us now face, and which the Authors’ Emergency Fund will do a great deal to mitigate.”
BA m.d. Meryl Halls told members the organisation is currently lobbying the trade and government to “swiftly” improve the financial and cashflow situation for high street booksellers.
The BA Group Board will waive all 2020 subscriptions for independents and National Book Tokens will improve payment terms to all indie members. The BA Group will also donate £30,000 to the Book Trade Charity, with the intention that the money is used for hardship grants for booksellers affected by the current crisis.
Stephen Lotinga, c.e.o. of the Publishers Association, added: “Despite the challenges they are facing, publishers are doing a huge amount to help. Lots of educational resources have been made available free to schools and families. Academic publishers are fast-tracking publication of scientific research relevant to the pandemic and ensuring it is widely accessible. Many publishers are promoting bookshops at a time when retail businesses are under strain.
“These are unprecedented times and everyone at the Publishers Association stands ready to support our members in any way that we can. As many in the industry have commented, the vital nature, purpose and power of books is only heightened by recent global events.”
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