AuthorSHARE: a program that pays royalties for used books – Panel Discussion

Athanasios VenitsanopoulosAuthors earnings, IAF, News

The International Authors Forum (IAF) were delighted to host a webinar on AuthorSHARE this month, a pioneering program developed in the UK that pays authors royalties for the sales of used books. John Degen, Chair of IAF and Executive Director of the Writers’ Union of Canada, hosted the webinar, which focussed on the origin of the program and how it benefits UK authors. Panellists included Owen Atkinson, CEO of the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS); Steve Potter, Head of Partnerships of Wold of Books; Nicola Solomon, Chief Executive of the Society of Authors (SoA); William Pryor, Chairman of Bookbarn International.

William Pryor said that the concept of AuthorSHARE came from the realisation that authors did not benefit from the sale of used books. As a result, the need to value the author’s work in the used book market was enhanced. William explained that the industrial size of BookBarn International and World of Books was particularly instrumental in launching the idea of AuthorSHARE, as it has been difficult to include smaller second-hand booksellers in this program due to their limited activity. However, he is optimistic about developing a system which could integrate such booksellers in the existing program.

Nicola Solomon addressed the importance of AuthorSHARE for authors around the world, emphasising three key points. She argued that the already low authors’ income has been drastically falling in recent decades and subsequently there is an urgent need to make sure that every time a book is read, the author is rewarded for it. She stated the necessity for authors to be engaged in the used book market because of its environmental benefits and explained the solution for this inclusion is to guarantee them a fair payment.

In this sense, AuthorSHARE is key because it allows such integration by paying authors for their used books sales. Finally, she stressed how authors need to be valued, and that this is an important factor in encouraging them to keep writing. The program provides a link between readers and buyers: every time they receive payment from AuthorSHARE, they feel excited at the idea that someone is reading their work.

Steve Potter emphasised the importance of the circular economy model. He explained how circular economy is related to the used-book market in the sense that by using this model, World of Books take books that people don’t want anymore and find them a new home. Consequently, the role of AuthorSHARE in ensuring payments for authors for used book sales is extremely valuable because, until its creation, authors have always been left out of the benefits that circular economy have brought to the used book market.

Owen Atkinson talked about how ALCS is administering the royalties via AuthorSHARE. By March, 36,000 authors around the world will have received payments from sales of used book, he said. In addition, he reported that they are still experiencing restrictions in paying some categories such as illustrators and beneficiaries of estates. Finally, he underlined that there has been a lot of interest from the UK Parliament about the scheme. ALCS will host an event in the summer where booksellers will meet MPs and members of the House of Lords in order to raise awareness around AuthorSHARE.

IAF would like to thank all the panellists for taking the time to share their views, and the audience for attending.

You can watch the full discussion here.