Step 1 - Signing up to the PLR website
Under the PLR system in the UK, payment is made from government funds to authors, illustrators and other contributors whose books are borrowed from public libraries. Payments are made annually on the basis of loans data collected from a sample of public libraries in the UK. The Irish Public Lending Remuneration (PLR) system covers all libraries in the Republic of Ireland and operates in a similar way.
To qualify for payment, applicants must apply to register their books, audio-books, Ebooks and E-audio-books including downloads from platforms other than Audible who do not subscribe to the scheme.
Applicants can find the relevant information required to register their titles, for example the ISBN number and what format the book is, on their Royalty statement - or for audiobook narrators, by searching for their narrations on Amazon.co.uk, to find which are published as CD copies. Audible downloads are not eligible for payment.
The UK PLR scheme is administered by the British Library from its offices in Boston Spa. The PLR office also provides registration for the Irish PLR scheme on behalf of the Public Lending Remuneration office.
Over 22,000 writers, illustrators, photographers, narrators, translators and editors who have contributed to books lent out by public libraries in the UK receive PLR payments each year.
If you have contributed to a book which is lent out by public libraries in the UK and the Republic of Ireland and wish to apply to register for UK and Irish PLR schemes, Applying for PLR will provide you with further information and guidance.
So, the first thing is to register online via The British Library website, www.bl.ul/plr
Step 2 - which audiobooks are eligible?
The next thing is to find out which audiobooks are released on CD - not all are - and some are initially only available on Audible as a digital download, but may subsequently be released on CD, so you need to check a couple of times a year just to make sure. You can find this out on Amazon.co.uk. Unfortunately, Audible is not part of the scheme, so only audiobooks available outside Audible are eligible. This is the full list of the type of audiobooks that are eligible for payment@
MP3 Playaways (pre-loaded MP3 players which contain a single audio-book title – customer supplies headphones and battery)
MP3CD – (unabridged audio-books which can be played on home computers)
CD Roms which are the equivalent of a printed book produced in CD Rom format (eg a narrated version of a book or a pdf version of an ebook produced in CD Rom format)
The following materials qualify for registration (if they are issued with ISBNs), however will not receive a payment (as they are subject to the same copyright law restrictions as ebooks):
. Digital download
. Audio download
The following audio materials do not qualify for registration:
Amazon Audible downloads (digital downloads issued with ASINs)
Dramatisations of TV or radio shows or audio material based on TV and radio shows which just contain actors performing their role with no narration in between
Recordings of conversations, speeches, interviews and comedy sketches
Interactive/Multimedia CD Roms which require additional software or interactive content in order to use the material. Under the terms of the scheme, this type of material is not deemed to be the equivalent of a printed book (eg software providing interactive access to teaching materials)
So ... if you've recorded an eligible book that is for example available on CD then all you need to do is to search for a specific book title - if its available on CD, you'll see an entry like this:
Step 2 - finding the ISBN number
Click on the Audio CD button as shown on the far right of the image above - this will take you to the CD listing on Amazon, which includes the ISBN number. You need to scroll down the listing, past all the advertisement type stuff showing other titles by the same author - eventually you'll arrive here:
Step 3 - enter the information on your PLR page
Next you need to enter the relevant information onto your personal PLR profile page. You list the ISBN number, the book title, the name of the publisher, the year published and finally what percentage you are due to be paid. Narrators get 20% payment - payments are made annually in February for the entire previous year running from June to June. This is the PLR form that you complete.
PLR staff are incredibly helpful by the way - and there is lots of information about this on their website.
Now all you have to do is search for all your titles, ISBN numbers and then sit back and wait for the money to come rolling in!
UK Audiobooks - Competition, Cost & Quality?
According to US figures provided in 2016 by The Audio Publishers' Association over 55 million Americans listened to audiobooks and more than 35,000 audiobooks were published in the States - and those numbers continue to increase. Figures recently released for 2017 indicate that total net sales of audiobooks were worth $757 million US, a rise of 22.7% on the previous year - and I read another report estimating that $900 million US would be spent on audiobook downloads and CD purchases this year (2018). In the US at least it's a growing and profitable industry. Why are things in the UK so different?
Speaking at Frankfurt’s half-day Audiobook Conference, Michele Cobb, executive director of the Audio Publishers Association (APA), highlighted growth in audiobook output and sales in the US (46,000 titles published in 2017 with sales up 23%) and the UK (3,700 titles produced with sales up 16% in 2017). As a percentage of all sales, Cobb said audiobooks were averaging out at around 4% in the major markets, including Germany. In the UK, 36% of audiobook consumers were new to the market in 2017.
So - though we're lagging a long way behind - with just 3,700 UK productions as opposed to an amazing 46,000 in the US. But sales are increasing even in the UK and I can't help feeling that we should be feeling more of this audiobook related golden glow should surely be reflected on this side of the pond? UK sales are a long way off the figures in the US, but although there is certainly not anywhere like as much work available for narrators, many UK studios seem to keep pretty busy, but rates for narrators in the UK appear to be static - I am being offered exactly the same rate (or in some cases rather less) as I was being paid four years ago.
It seems to me, that the Audiobook industry in the UK has become obsessed by bringing down the costs - but at what cost to the listener?
Photo Credit: Paul Haynes
I've gleaned quite a lot of knowledge over the years, knowledge that might be of interest to others, especially authors, actors and voice actors. Because I read so much, for pleasure and professionally, I also occasionally write reviews of what I read - so they're here too.
My opinions are mine and my views are my own!