INDUSTRY KNOWHOW Public Lending Right 1

So you’ve made it to publication! Soon you’ll be selling books, but what about those library loans? The good news is that they pay too! In the first of two posts, Helen Liston tells us what PLR is and how you can earn money from loans. 

Libraries give readers the chance to borrow books without having to pay the cover price. But how does the author benefit? The answer is PLR - Public Lending Right. And if you’ve published anything that carries an ISBN, you’re entitled to some of the PLR fund. 

So, what exactly is PLR? PLR is a government fund which is divided annually and paid according to an estimate of how often your book was borrowed from public libraries. 

Only books? At the moment, yes. Although there are plans to extend to audiobooks and ebooks, these are temporarily on hold due to cuts in government expenditure. 

 Photo credit: Pictures of Money on Flickr

How much could I get? PLR payouts can be anything between £1.00 and £6,600, so it’s really worth registering! When you register you’ll be entitled to money covering a whole year of the estimated use of your book. A year runs between 1 July and 30 June, and you can’t claim retrospectively, so with summer on its way, this is a job worth doing sooner rather than later. The payment is not tax deductible, but you should include details of the sums received as income in your tax returns. 

When will I get it? Once you’re registered, every January you’ll get a statement that will show estimated national loans for all of your books or publications. This will be followed by a payment the following February. 

Each loan means you get paid
Photo credit: Mildenhall Air Force

How is it calculated? For the purposes of PLR, the country is divided into eight regions into which library authorities are grouped. Payments are then calculated using a statistical sampling method - a sample is taken from 1,000 branches throughout the eight PLR regions nationwide. The sample set is changed regularly. The number of loans of your publication will be added up and applied as an average nationally. 

How can I apply? You can apply online or with a paper form which you can download and print here. If you use a pen name be sure to use your real name when applying. You will need the ISBN number of your book, and if it’s been published in different editions that will mean more than one ISBN too.

Feature photo credit: CCAC North Library 


Helen Liston is Words & Pictures' KnowHow editor. If you have any suggestions for future KnowHow posts, you can contact Helen at


  1. Thank you for posting such a straight-forward and helpful article about PLR. This area a bit confusing to newbie authors (or maybe just me!), so it's wonderful to have the whole concept demystified with clear steps on how and when to register.

  2. Look out for part 2 of our PLR KnowHow next month, Stephanie. PLR does seem a bit mysterious, but once you've done it once, it's simple and it's very much worthwhile.


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