If you place your book (or your book is placed) into one or more public libraries in the UK then you can register for an annual payment under the Public Lending Rights scheme (known as the PLR – see here).
Public Lending Rights is a long standing UK government scheme. It recompenses authors for loans of their work from public libraries. While the income from Public Lending Rights will not set the world on fire, it is a rather satisfying confirmation that your work is getting noticed and read. I believe most other countries run very similar schemes.
Just in case anyone does not know what PLR is:
When a book is lent out from a UK public library, then the author of that book (if registered) is entitled to a small sum of money as compensation for the loan. The scheme uses a sample of libraries instead of using the full lending data from across all UK libraries. The PLR scheme bases payments on that sample.
If your book is unfortunate enough not to feature in any of the sample libraries then you will not get anything that year. The scheme rotates libraries annually. The intention is that over a a few years the payments will level out.
With one niche book registered in the scheme for the last twenty years I have received payments on roughly half of those years. This single book is only available from four or five local libraries in my area. (As well as the six legal deposit libraries of course).
Public Lending Rights: What’s it worth?
Currently a single book loan will accrue the author just over £0.09. So you’ll need to write a very popular book to pay off the mortgage with Public Lending Rights!
But the annual payment does give you some idea of the popularity and impact of your book. Especially as it is viewed away from the distortions of on-line retailers. In the environment of a library all aspects of the field have been leveled.
In a library you are literally on the same bookshelf as other authors. There are no Amazon ratings. There is no bestseller rank separating your from best-sellers. Your cover may well be right next to theirs.
Public lending rights may not be worth a mountain of cash. But it has to be said, if you are lending books through the public libraries then you might as well get whatever recompense you can!
If you have a published book that you would like to register for Public Lending Rights then you can register yourself and the book at the PLR site here.
Hope that helps