If you are a Canadian author with books published in Canada, you should ensure they are available to readers through the public library. There are many reasons why but in this post, I will focus on the Public Lending Rights (PLR) program and how it benefits Canadian authors.
I first learned about the Public Lending Rights program almost a decade ago from the late Jay Underwood. Although I had been writing for about a dozen years before that time, I had never heard another writer speak about the program and the benefits to authors.
What is the Public Lending Rights program?
From their website: “Each year millions of Canadians access books from their public libraries, free of charge. This free use we enjoy means that authors potentially lose revenues from sales of their books; readers who might otherwise buy a book can instead consult or borrow it from the library.
“The Canada Council’s Public Lending Right Program helps to address this inequity. Each year it distributes payments to authors to compensate them for the presence of their books in public libraries. The Program has grown steadily since it was established in 1986 and last year over $9.7 million was distributed among over 17,000 authors registered in the Program and the average payment to a registered individual was $568.”
What does it cost?
It is free to register books in the PLR program.
How does it work?
Each year, targeted library catalogues are searched. If your book is found, you receive payment. They don’t search all library catalogues. This is why it’s important to ensure your books are not all in the same jurisdiction. In other words, I wouldn’t donate a book to the libraries in Dartmouth, Halifax and Bedford, Nova Scotia—they are grouped in the same catalogue (same family of libraries). It is wiser to donate a book to the libraries in Dartmouth, Canso and Amherst, and then look outside the province.
If I can’t personally visit a library, I mail my book with a letter addressed to the branch manager. To ensure I am not sending books to the same catalogue and to learn the name of the branch manager and the address of the library, I search online.
Although it is possible the library will reject the book, it is also highly likely they will add it to their collection. The one-time cost of the book and the postage will more than pay for itself the first year it is counted.
How much money will you be paid?
This depends on several factors.
- the number of books registered in the PLR program
- the number of times each book was counted by PLR
- the type of book
- the length of time it has been in the system
- the percentage of the book claimed by the author (in the case where there is more than one author)
On average, each book counted will pay between $40 and $50. The value of the book depreciates over time. Books that have been in the system between 0 and 5 years get the maximum payout, whereas books that have been there for more than 16 years gets only 50%.
There is a minimum amount that must be reached before you receive a cheque. If the search results net an author less than $50, there will be no payment made. From what I’ve read, money cannot be accumulated over the years. In other words, if you made $30 in 2014 and $20 in 2015, you still won’t get a cheque.
When do you get paid?
The third week of February.
Do I have to claim this on Income Tax?
Yes. It is income from writing. You will get a tax slip (T4A) in February only if the amount is $500 or more. Even if you don’t get a tax form, you must claim the income.
Who can register their books in the PLR program?
The list includes…
- an author or co-author
- an illustrator or photographer
- a translator
- an anthology contributor
- an editor with an original written contribution
To qualify, you must be a Canadian citizen (living in Canada or abroad) or have Permanent Resident status, as defined by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
What types of books qualify for the PLR program?
The eligible books are…
- works of poetry, fiction, drama, children’s literature, nonfiction and scholarly work
- printed and electronic books (eBooks) with a valid ISBN
- books that are at least 48 pages in length, or in the case of children’s literature, at least 24 pages. For eBooks, the book page count is based on the PDF version.
What books do NOT qualify for the PLR program?
Please refer to the website for the complete list. Some of the books that are NOT eligible include…
- a practical book giving advice or instructions, a self-help or “how-to” book (eg travel, nature, cookbook, etc.)
- a professional guide such as legal, technical, medical and scientific guide
- a newspaper, magazine or periodical
- a calendar, agenda, colouring book, quiz book or game book
- a book created for your employer in the course of your employment
To learn more about which books qualify, which ones don’t, about editor contributions and similar items, read this page.
Do they accept eBooks?
Yes. This is new this year. You can register printed books and eBooks.
Do I have to register every year?
Yes and no. Once a book is registered, you don’t have to register it again. It will remain in the system. But if you have had new books published in the past year or you missed registering a previously published book, you can do that between February 15th and May 1st. You will receive a green registration form in the mail with your cheque. Use that to register previously unregistered books.
Can I register online?
No. Use the green form that arrives in the mail. If you’re new to the program or you are registering more than two books, download the form(s) here.
However, you can complete the form online, print it and mail it in.
How do I register a book?
To register a print book, complete all pertinent information on the form, including ISBN, format (paper), language, category, contribution, % Share and number of pages. Remember to check all four boxes in the Declaration. If you cannot check all four truthfully, you will not be able to register your books. Also remember to sign and date the form.
Once the form is complete, for each book, attach a photocopy of the title page and copyright page where your name and the title of the book appears. If the book contains a table of contents, that too must be photocopied and submitted.
To register an eBook, enter the following information on the form: ISBN, format (PDF or ePub), language, category, contribution and % Share. Only ePubs and Portable Document Formats (PDFs) are eligible to be registered. You must also send print copies of the title page, copyright page and table of contents (if there is one) from a PDF version of the book.
If you are registering a title for the first time and it is available in print and eBook formats, you can enter the title once, indicating a format on each line beside the appropriate ISBN. Send only one set of support material (photocopies of title page, copyright page and table of contents).
Note: You must have an ISBN for the book to register it. Remember, you need an ISBN for a print book and a separate one for the eBook. They can NOT be the same.
Can you register a book under a Pen Name?
Yes. In the line where you write the title, you add “by Miss Mee Supper” or whatever name you write under.
Where do I learn more?
This is an overview of the Public Lending Rights program. To learn more, visit Canada Council for the Arts.
Do other countries have a Public Lending Rights program?
Yes. From their website: “There are public lending right programs operating in 29 countries worldwide. However, the Canadian model is special in that it is not linked to copyright legislation and is mandated to compensate Canadian authors exclusively, across a specific range of eligible literary and scholarly genres.”
If you found this information helpful, please consider buying me a cup of tea ($1.50) as if we had chatted at a cafe and I shared this with you. [Payment is through PayPal.]