Maximise Your Income

After meeting with my publisher I got the impression that they were not sure how much their other illustrators, authors and other contributors such as translators, narrators, etc. knew about claiming more money from things like Public Lending Right (PLR) and other systems and making their work keep on working hard for them.  So I decided to share with them all I knew, and I don’t pretend to know it all, and I would like to share it all with you too.

I have been doing this for some time and have been shamelessly milking that cash cow for all its worth.  It makes a massive difference to my income and therefore can be true for other illustrators, authors etc. too.  If there are any idea or scheme, that are legal that is, that I have not mentioned below then please get in touch and I’ll add them on.  Thanks.

Reading the below back I can see I have written this from an illustrators view, however, authors and other contributors can copy the ideas and do the same through their affiliated organisations.

So here are some tips to follow for making more out of your hard work and relatively easy money:

1) Join the UK Public Lending Right (PLR) system.  This is the Public Lending Rights through UK libraries.  Basically every time a book of yours is taken out of the library you get a few pence.  This does not sound much but it quickly adds up to hundreds if not thousands of pounds.  There is a cap of about £6,600 that any one illustrator, author etc. can claim.  This is funded by the UK government.

Once you have joined add every book you have done.  The criteria is that if a book has a unique International Standard Book Number (ISBN) number then add it.  So if you have Paperback, Hardback, Board book, eBook or any different variation of that book, it will have its own ISBN number.  You will have to input the same book multiple times for each separate ISBN.  If there are 10 versions put all 10 in.  Put in the Welsh and Scottish Gaelic versions too and keep going …. You only need to input the information once and then it is there forever.  You get statements and payment once a year. www.plr.uk.com

For more information on how to start collating your ISBNs click here ….

2) Irish PLR.  As the UK has a reciprocal agreement with Ireland we can also claim Irish PLR through PLR UK.  You can claim via the UK PLR system and it is done automatically (make sure you have checked all the right boxes to claim). You don’t get anywhere near as much but nevertheless is very very welcome.

3) Other PLR schemes.  We can also claim PLR in some other countries that the UK has reciprocal agreements with such as Austria, France and a hand full of others.  Though awkwardly for illustrators like me we can only claim via ALCS, which is the Author’s Licensing and collecting society.  We are not writers yet we have to go through them none the less. They have a weird system which makes no sense to me at all, but it works and I am very grateful to them.  There is a formula they use which to this day I don’t understand.  So the upshot is some books are accepted and some are totally rejected and I have no idea why.  The amount you will get will be similar to the Irish PLR.  How 4 or 5 PLR systems amount to the same as Irish PLR is beyond me, but hey that is life and I am not complaining ….. anymore ….. and there have been some developments recently which I have added as below …. www.alcs.co.uk

4) Designers and Artists Collecting Society (DACS) Payback.  Very basically Payback is an annual scheme run by DACS to distribute the money owed to visual artists or artists’ estates by various collective licensing schemes, such as TV broadcasts and educational recording.  The main money earner here is from the Copyright Licencing Agency (CLA) which sells photocopying licences.  So when someone in a school, university, public sector organisation or other type of business wants to photocopy pages from a book which features your work, as the creator of the work being photocopied, you are entitled to a royalty.  Rather than ask the person to contact you every time they photocopy your work, the organisation pays an annual licence fee that covers the photocopying of copyright-protected works.  The money is then split into royalty shares for different types of creators: authors, publishers and visual artists whose work has been featured in UK publications.

As a visual artist, you can claim your royalties through DACS Payback.  Authors etc. can claim the same through their respective organisation.  As you can imagine there is no way of knowing who copied what or how many times.  Far too cumbersome.  So DACS collects all this money then divvies out the total between all those who apply.  This again is a form to fill in each year.  They decide how much to give you based on a formula, i.e. how many books and how many illustrations and how many uses of that illustrations, also magazines etc. So you have to add up every illustration you have ever done. So you must keep good records.

The good thing is as its now an online form the old one is still there as a reminder and all you have to do is update it if you have done loads more since the previous year. You also have to give example ISBN numbers for 3 books or 3 magazines etc.

The payments can be several hundred pounds and are paid out once a year. ……. www.dacs.org.uk

5) Dutch PLR. Yes it gets yet more confusing, but we can claim Dutch PLR, but this time through DACS, the Designers and Artists Collecting Society (also photographers).  You have to remember to fill in a form each year online and there is a deadline!! Forget and you don’t get.  This PLR was introduced only a few years ago and the first year I nearly fell off my chair when I got the cheque.  It was simply far more than I expected and more akin to the UK payout.  Though this gives it a false impression.  The first year not many people knew about it and so in subsequent years the payout dropped as more and more people applied.  The pot of money is only so big.  Also DACS is not sure how much longer this will go on for and may eventually stop altogether.  Funding is probably the issue as it is as usual government funded.  Also with the UK leaving the EU (not sure if we are or not?) this may influence these decisions.  So apply while it lasts.

6) German Royalties.  New developments, as of 2019 artists and estates can now apply for royalties if their work has been published in Germany, thanks to the partnership between DACS and the German collecting society VG Bild-Kunst.  So if you are a UK based artist or estate who has had work published on a German website, in a German book or featured in a German art exhibition, you may be eligible to apply for royalties.  The forms are quite straightforward to fill in and I submitted mine for the first time before the 2019 deadline which was Friday 14th June 2019.  I have no idea at the moment what to expect back, however, every little bit counts.  More information below and on the DACS website.

7) Amazon Author Central. This is more of an unknown but definitely a useful exercise that most illustrators, authors, etc. should do …… just in case. The idea is you create an account as an author with Amazon Author Central.  Once your account is verified you can write a profile / biography, add pictures, blog and events etc.  Your account allows you to add any of your books sold on Amazon to your page.

Now here is where it gets a little bit complicated …… Worldwide there are currently twelve Amazon domains such as Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk etc.  Of these only five domains currently have Amazon Author Central facilities and you need to join each individually as they are not linked to each other …. yes I know but hey it is how it is!  …… The domains are:-

Author Central for Japan is very difficult to do and they will not provide translation assistance unless you have lots of books being sold on that domain.  As such I only started with four Amazon Author Central accounts covering .com, .co.uk, ,de and .fr.  I later got some help from a friend and have now managed to do my Japanese page, however, if you don’t know anyone that can read Japanese then there is always Google Translate …. It’s not perfect but it is better than nothing.

For each account you need to use the add books facility to add all of your books, regardless of language, hardback, paperback etc. sold on that domain individually.  Also if you find a book authored or illustrated by you but does not have your name against it on Amazon you can use the contact centre to request for the book to be added to your Author Central page.  Fortunately you can use the add books facility to search for books in your name or the authors or illustrators you have done the book with so you can add as many as possible to your Amazon pages.

The idea is when someone is shopping online for one of your books they can click to see your Amazon Author page and see what other books you have done. So they may end up buying more of your books if their little one loved the first one they bought.  It just makes it easier for the customer to see more of your books.  All this may increase book sales even by just a tiny bit.  There is of course no way of knowing for sure unless there is a sudden jump in books sales immediately afterwards.

So you can see the hours and hours of time dedicated to doing something that only ‘might’ make you money.  BUT you just never know, once done on a global scale who knows what affect it will have on your royalties.  Even just small increase in sales could convert into a few extra pounds into your bank.  Your publishers might just thank you for it as it will reflect in their cash flow too!!!  So get talking with each other to make it easier.

8) International PLR.  I can not not mention international PLR as there are other established PLR schemes in Denmark (the first country in the world to establish a PLR scheme back in 1940), Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Finland, Faroe Islands, Georgia, Greenland, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden, that if you are a resident or domicile or national of you might be able to claim directly through.  As a UK citizen I am reliant on UK PLR, ALCS and DACS to collect on my behalf, however, I do double check every now and then for developments as there are also another 27 or so countries that have PLR schemes in the development, no the USA is not one of them and having read the history of PLR in the USA I doubt very much that this will be coming anytime soon …… nonetheless an excellent market for books. 

9) Amazon Associate.  Basically your website linked to Amazon.  Oh god you are thinking there can’t be more surely, but I saved this for last as it is possibly the least likely to make money unless you become very very famous.  So you have a website and lots of pictures and info about you, great!  Though if you had a page of links to your books on Amazon, anyone who looks at your site has an immediate link to a particular book that they can buy.  If they do, Amazon will share a percentage of the price with you.  Simple!

Not so simple …. as with everything else you first need to become an Amazon Associate and then use your associate account to create links that you individually copy and then paste onto your web site.  These would be links to your books sold on that Amazon domain.  Basically when anyone follows a link from your website to an amazon page and makes a purchase from that linked page you get a payment for bringing that customer over.  If they navigate off that page and make a purchase you get nothing.  All twelve Amazon domains do this so again you need to set up an account for each.  Fortunately the European ones are linked to the UK Amazon Associate one so once you have your UK account it is not much extra effort to set up the accounts for France, Germany, Spain etc.

To get started got to https://affiliate-program.amazon.co.uk/, select your location in the top right hand corner of the screen and then follow the instructions.

To date I have earnt zero from Amazon Associate but then again I have not done anything to promote my web site in that way either and I would still say better in it than not as you never know.  As an update Amazon terminated my associate account due to low sales volume …. I think they were being polite as it was actually no sales volume …. It seems they will terminate an associate account after three months if it is inactive.  I will try again at some later date if the amount of traffic to my site is encouraging enough.

If you have loads of time you may want versions of your website in multiple languages as we are after all much more global than we have ever been. The problem is getting people to your site, so if you can solve that marketing problem then you may just succeed in squeezing that lemon a bit more.

OK there you have it, nine different things to consider doing to increase your earnings.  If you know of any other please let me know and I will add them to this page, as well as make use of naturally!

As you can see the above can mount to quite a bit of work and where publishers can help is by providing a list of all publications against their individual ISBN for the illustrator, author, etc. to use to register with PLR, ALCS, DACS etc.

There is no doubt that completing the above is a mammoth task, plus in the process of doing the above I found out that there were some variations of books that I have illustrated that I knew nothing about as some publishers are better at keeping in touch than others.  Off all the books I have illustrated to date there are over 650 variations i.e. separate ISBNs covering all languages etc.  It is amazing how it mounts up.

The downside is the amount of time it takes to do all of the above.  It is not difficult it is just laborious.  Luckily my husband (now working with me as my PA and managing my website) did it for me.  I was too busy doing arty farty stuff and focusing my core business.  For more on how to create a list of all your books click Create an Asset Register.

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