First income as an author

An old fashioned typewriter typing out the year 2021

Get paid for what you do. In March 2021, I received my first royalties as a published author. Woo-hoo! It didn't pay all of the bills, but it was the first income from my career change. As such, it was a much-needed affirmation.

This income wasn’t from directly from book sales, nor from my publisher. Rather, the royalties came from secondary uses of my work.

Authors are due a payment when their work is borrowed from, or photocopied in, a public library, universities, and other institutions.


Fortunately, authors do not have to do the leg work in contacting each university or library themselves. The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society set up in 1977 as a non-profit organisation to collect such payments on behalf of their membership. They collect payments for books as well as for articles or scripts and disburse them in yearly payments.

My debut book came out in late December 2020 and I registered it with ALCS in immediately. I was not expecting anything in their March distribution, as my sole registered work had been out less than three full months. However, I did receive a distribution payment for photocopying & audiovisual use! A small one, but incredibly welcome.

Join the ALCS

If you are writing, editing or translating any combination of:

  • books
  • articles
  • scripts for TV
  • scripts for radio

Then get in touch with ALCS:

Lifetime membership of ALCS costs just £36, and I made that back easily in this first payment. Alternately, membership is free if you are already a member of the:

  • Society of Authors
  • Writers’ Guild of Great Britain
  • National Union of Journalists
  • British Association of Journalists
  • Chartered Institute of Journalists

Public Lending Rights

When a book is borrowed from a public library, the book’s contributors may be eligible for a payment. These are known as Public Lending Rights (PLR) and there is a scheme which can collect such payments on the author’s behalf. And, like the ALCS, it is worth joining.

The PLR scheme for the UK is administered by the British Library and payments are made in January. I missed the distribution this year so will have to wait patiently until 2022.

Eligible works include printed books, e-books, and audiobooks. Payments can be made to illustrators, authors, editors, translators, or audiobook narrators.

Find out more about eligibility here or join the scheme at

Society of Authors

I mentioned the Society above and, while they do not arrange direct payments to authors, membership has been essential in my early years on this new career path. The Society of Authors is the UK trade union for authors, translators, and illustrators. I joined the Society as soon as a contract offer from a publisher meant I was eligible.

One of the key services which the Society offer is scrutiny of contracts. Even while my membership application was underway, staff at the Society were scrutinising the contract. This was a boon for a novice author, and their service broke down many of the terms and complications. I have also found their tax advisory service, run by HW Fisher, to be invaluable!

Over the pandemic lockdowns, the Society of Authors provided emergency funds to struggling members and held online events to help with training, creativity and even simple socialising. If you are not yet a member, please have a look at their eligibility and services:

Don't leave money on the table.

Make sure you are subscribed for secondary rights, or update your account with new books, today!

The Alliance of Independent Authors - Author Member