How to Maximize Your Income as a writer. How to maximize your income as an Illustrator. How to maximize your income as an Author.
How to Maximise Your Income as an Author, Illustrator etc.
After a meeting with my publisher a few years ago I was left with the impression that they were not sure how much their other illustrators, authors and other contributors such as translators, narrators, etc., knew enough about how to maximise your income as a writer or illustrator. I felt that there was maybe not enough awareness amount authors / writers, illustrators etc. about claiming more money from things like Public Lending Right (PLR), secondary use royalties for photocopying, and other sources of passive (well sort of passive) income for their published and/or broadcast work. 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 all that I know with you too.
I have been doing this for some time and have been shamelessly squeezing that lemon 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 ideas or schemes, that are legal that is, that I have not mentioned below then please get in touch and I’ll add them on. Thanks.
As you start reading through the ideas below you will begin to realize that you are going to need a register of all your published and broadcast work in the format that you can easily refer to and abstract information from as needed. For more on how to create a register of all your published and broadcast work please follow the link to my page on how to Create an Asset Register, a Log of All Your Published Works, from Scratch.
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. I have also now created separate articles for as many of the headings as I can to share as much of the details as I know, links to these can be found at the bottom of this page. Most of my information comes direct from the websites of the collecting societies or from my correspondence with them.
Enough talking, time to get down to it, here are some tips and ideas to follow to help you maximise your income as an illustrator, author, translator, narrator, etc., you make your own luck in life so let’s do this:-
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 criterion is that if a book has a unique International Standard Book Number (ISBN) 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. For more information and details please read my separate page on PLR by clicking here.
For more information on how to start collating your ISBNs click here ….
2) Irish Public Lending Rights.
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 it is very very welcome.
3) Other Public Lending Rights Schemes.
Illustrators, authors etc. in the UK and Ireland can also claim PLR from some other countries that the UK has reciprocal agreements with such as Austria, France and a handful of others. Though interestingly 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 nonetheless. 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 with the correct royalty percentage and others not and I have no real understanding as to why. Hey that is life and I am not complaining ….. anymore ….. and there have been some developments recently, which I have added below, which I am very pleased and excited about. For more information and details please read my separate page on PLR by clicking here.
4) Secondary Use Royalties.
Authors of books, magazines, journals and scripts can make claims for money due for secondary use of their work through the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS). ALCS collects two main types of income for everyone who writes or contributes to books, magazines and journals. The first, and biggest of the two, is licences issued by the Copyright Licencing Agency (CLA), which offers licensing options for businesses, educational institutions, and government agencies for copying or scanning works, and licences issued by the Publishers’ Licencing Service (PLS) to licence reproduction rights on behalf of its member organisations. The second is from the overseas PLR from countries the UK has reciprocal agreements with. Basically in a nutshell for UK and Irish authors and illustrators etc. to claim payments from PLR systems operating in a number of other European countries such as Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Austria, you need to register your works with ALCS who administer the reciprocal PLR agreements with other countries. As ALCS allows you to register not only books but also any contributions you have made to magazines, journals and scripts, you don’t just need a full list of all you books’ ISBNs, you will also need the International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) for any magazine or journal your work has been published in too.
For script writers ALCS also collects several types of income including re-transmission of works broadcast on TV and radio, educational recording and private copying (in most European countries, a levy is charged on the sale of recording and copying equipment. This is usually referred to as a private copying levy and is intended to compensate rights owners for the reuse of their works).
ALCS has reciprocal agreements with over 55 collecting societies around the world and makes full use of the European Union (EU) 1992 Directive on Lending and Rental Right established a copyright framework for the recognition of authors’ lending rights by Member States. For more information and details please read my separate page on how to claim secondary use royalties through ALCS by clicking here.
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 image 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 those illustrations, also magazines etc. So you have to add uo 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 or ISSN numbers for 3 books or 3 magazines etc.
The payments can be several hundred pounds and are paid out once a year. For more information and details please read my separate page on how to claim DACS Payback by clicking here.
Yes it gets yet more confusing, but visual artists 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 having left the EU this may influence these decisions. So apply while it lasts.
7) 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.
I was recently asked about this by a fellow illustrator so have added a much more detailed page on how to setup your accounts and add books etc. which you can read by clicking here. Otherwise please read the summary below.
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 Amazon.com covering north America
- Author Central Amazon.co.uk covering the UK
- Author Central Amazon.de covering Germany
- Plate-forme Auteurs Amazon.fr covering France
- 著者セントラル Amazon.co.jp covering Japan
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 it 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 book 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 effect it will have on your royalties. Even just a 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.
I cannot 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.
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 earned 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, ten 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 them 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. Of 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 on my core business.
Can Someone Else Do All This For Me Please?
I have finally managed to convince my husband to offer this service to other authors, illustrators etc. If you are interested then you can email him (firstname.lastname@example.org) and he’ll be happy to talk to you about finding the right setup that would work for you both to initially get a register started of all your published works, if you don’t have one that is, and then getting them registered to your various claiming society accounts. Naturally he would also be more than happy to share his thoughts and experience with anyone to help in anyway, so if you do have more questions or are having an issue with something then please do drop him a line and he would gladly help you as much as he can.