Public Lending Rights
The Public Lending Rights Act of 1979 established the right of every author to receive payment from government funds for the free lending of their printed book(s) and audio book(s) by UK public lending libraries (eBooks are not covered by the scheme). This right also extend to illustrators and others who are named contributors to a work. Although the sums involved rarely exceed £100 each year for the vast majority of authors it is worthwhile going through the simple and free registration process.
The UK PLRs are administered by the British Library from their offices in Stockton-on-Tees. The service including payment to authors and others is funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which set aside a sum of £6.6 million for payments in the year 2015-16.
You can apply for PLR registration by either using the online registration service, downloading a form or contacting the Stockton Office and requesting a form be sent to you. New applicants will be required to provide two documents (originals not photocopies) showing their name and current address. Note that if you author a book under a name other than your real name you must use the latter on all the registration documents.
For an individual to qualify for PLR on library books he/she must either be named on the title page, or be entitled to royalty payments from a publisher
In addition the applicant must be an individual or individuals and not a company or organisation. At the time of application the author(s) home or main home must be either in the UK or one of the other countries of the European Economic Area (that is the countries of the EU plus Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway).
The book for which lending rights are sought must at the time of application be printed and bound (paperback books are for this purpose considered to be bound) published on sale via traditional retail and or digital outlets marked and with an ISBN
Where there are two or more contributors to a book the PLR must be shared between them according to a proportional basis agreed before the application for registration is submitted.
Payments to authors are calculated annually based on book loan data collected from a number of public libraries located within thirty public lending authorities and multiplied in proportion to total public lending.
To ensure both fairness and accuracy at least seven of the sample authorities are changed each year and no library can remain in the sample for more than four years. A list of the authorities participating in the sample at any one time is available on the PLR website.
There is a minimum payment threshold of £1 and a maximum of £6,600. Even towards the lower end of the scale these are useful payments when calculated over a period of many years and perhaps decades. It helps the author that even out-of-print books are included in the sample if they are still on library shelves. To qualify for the lending right during a twelve-month period a book must be registered before June 30th. Payments are made each February.
PLR payment is made without a deduction for tax so you need to include that sum in your tax returns.
There is absolutely no reason why libraries should not stock your self-published book assuming it is of a good enough standard. However without the backing of a traditional publisher you will have to do the ‘leg-work’ yourself or simply hope that libraries select the book from the numerous catalogues and book lists to which they refer.
It may be worthwhile visiting your local library and offering a free copy of your book although they would be under no obligation to accept. However even if it is part of the sample group it may well not be in future years. To balance that thought you might consider that no publicity is bad publicity.