Christmas comes late for authors in Britain, as 6th January is when we receive our statements from the Public Lending Right. This is a wonderful body that pays a royalty for books taken out of British libraries. For a sole author, that’s currently a payout of 6.29 pence every time someone checks me out (in the library sense, that is). The numbers are extrapolated from sampled data, so there’s always a bit of wiggle room — this year, for example, one of my books earned nothing at all when I was quite sure it was going to be in the top slot. Depends on which libraries are being asked.
For the last ten years, my highest-earning book has been an obscure work for children that I wrote using someone else’s name (no, I am not going to tell you what it is). This month’s statement ends that reign at last, with the hardback and paperback editions of my Confucius biography officially hitting the top spot.
Here’s the JC top ten loaners for 2009:
1: Confucius: A Biography (hardback and paperback combined)
2: A Brief History of the Vikings
3: Wu: The Chinese Empress Who Schemed Seduced and Murdered Her Way to Become a Living God. This would have easily been number one if it were also available in paperback. Something which I hope the History Press gets around to sooner rather than later.
4: Bejing: The Biography of a City. Which surprises me. But it was a cheap book, and presumably a lot of libraries bought it ahead of the 2008 Olympics, as we hoped they would.
5: The First Emperor of China (hardback and paperback). Surprised this isn’t higher, to be honest. The British Museum was shipping this by the crateful during their Terracotta Army exhibition, but then again, if more people are buying it for themselves, they don’t need to go looking for it in a library.
6: Ironfist Chinmi: Cutting Edge. Yes, even though as the translator I only receive 30% of the PLR fee, Takeshi Maekawa’s Ironfist Chinmi manga occupies the #6, #7, #8 and #10 slots on my earnings from libraries. Heartening to see that it’s still earning after fifteen years on sale, although odd that Cutting Edge, the last in the series, should be the highest ranked.
7: Ironfist Chinmi: Whirlwind Fist.
8: Ironfist Chinmi: Victory for the Spirit.
9: Marco Polo.
10: Ironfist Chinmi: Drunken Master.
You’ll notice that Schoolgirl Milky Crisis isn’t on the list. In fact, although it’s registered with the PLR, it was published in February 2009, and hence unlikely to make it into any library collections by the June cut-off point. Perhaps it will show up next year. Meanwhile, the Anime Encyclopedia, despite selling more copies than most of my other books combined, continues to be low earner for PLR — this is because most libraries don’t allow visitors to check it out at all, and insist that it remains on-site as a reference work. The powers that be in the authoring world are well aware that some books slip through the net, and are trying to come up with a new model that also includes reference works that are consulted but not borrowed. Whatever; I am just immensely glad that the PLR exists at all. It never fails to brighten my Januarys.