'World first' scheme sees authors rewarded for used book sales

'World first' scheme sees authors rewarded for used book sales

A new collaboration between online retailers and writers' organisations will pay authors on used book sales in what organisers say is “a world first”. 

The coalition between World of Books Group, Bookbarn International, the Society of Authors (SoA) and the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) will see writers receive royalties on used book sales for the first time. The scheme pays authors royalties on the sale of used books purchased at World of Books and Bookbarn International.

The retailers share their sales information with the ALCS which will match these with works by their members and make a payment directly to them. ALCS has a membership of over 112,000 writers in 105 countries worldwide who could stand to benefit from the scheme, with payments being made directly to authors or their agents twice a year by the organisation .

Organisers said: “In a world first, authors are now able to receive royalties on sales of used books thanks to AuthorSHARE—a groundbreaking new scheme designed to create a fairer deal for authors in the used book market. Until now, authors have only been able to receive royalty payments on sales of new books. However, in recent years there have been increasing calls from within the writing community for a new approach to address the exponential growth of the used book market. The market for used books is growing at 12% annually—compared to 1% for that of new books—and is estimated to be worth £563 million in the UK by 2025."

The scheme was the brainchild of William Pryor, founder of Somerset based retailer Bookbarn International. He was inspired by the Artists’ Resale Right which grants artists or their estate permission to receive a fee on the resale of their artworks. 

Subsequently, online retailer World of Books created a royalty fund worth £200,000 for the scheme’s first year. Because the scheme is linked to a fund dedicated to support it, the most any author can currently receive from the scheme is capped at £1,000 a year. It is expected this will increase in subsequent years as the contribution is linked to the business performance and profit of World of Books. It is also hoped other retailers will also get involved. 

Pryor said: “As a writer as well as founder of Bookbarn, I was puzzled that authors, the very people who create the raw material of our business, were not benefitting. In 2015 this gave me the idea that has, thanks to World of Books bringing their scale of operations to the scheme, now become AuthorSHARE. This is all about giving authors recognition for the value they create and we hope other retailers within this space will eventually join us in this innovative voluntary initiative” 

The SoA recently revealed the financial "desperation" many writers are facing and a Bookseller survey showed that authors and illustrators' incomes had dropped. Nicola Solomon, c.e.o. of the SOA (pictured), said: “It is great to see that they will now receive a small share whenever their book is sold from the websites of Bookbarn, World of Books and other participating retailers. As well as the welcome financial boost, authors love to know that their books are still being read and enjoyed long after the first sale.”  

Novelist Joanne Harris praised the new scheme, saying: "The value of a book goes beyond the value of the paper it is printed on, so it is great to see that original creators will see some benefit when their work finds a new reader. That the scheme has come from a partnership of private companies who simply believe that this is the right thing to do is very reassuring.

"This has been such a financially challenging time for so many authors. Now more than ever, the secondary incomes that come from library borrowing, copying, and now re-selling can all add up to help make a creative career a financially viable one."

Graham Bell, c.e.o. of World of Books Group, said: “The growth of the used book market is fantastic in so many ways; it offers affordable literacy and protects the planet by enabling more goods to be reused. But until now, authors have missed out on the benefits of the movement towards a more circular-model of book consumption. The AuthorSHARE scheme addresses this, giving authors the potential to be paid at every point in its lifecycle."

At present, royalties on used books can only be paid on purchases made directly from the World of Books and Bookbarn International websites, but both retailers hope others within the industry will join the scheme to enable more authors to benefit.  

Only writers who are members of the ALCS will receive payment from the Author Share scheme. Members must have also registered their individual works with the ALCS in order to receive payment for those titles.  

Other retailers interested in joining the scheme should contact marketing@worldofbooks.com or william@bookbarninternational.com for more information. More information about the scheme is on the SoA website.