Search This Blog

Saturday, November 12, 2016

NZ writers penalized for publishing overseas

New Zealand is a country that compensates local writers for royalties lost through library borrowings.

Every time a book is borrowed, and not bought, the author gets no money.  This scheme makes up for this, in a measure.  It is called the Public Lending Right.

A set sum of $2M is divided up according to a system, where a sampling of libraries is taken, and the number of each title is extrapolated from the resulting figure.  If the number is under 50, the author gets nothing. If the number is over 50, the author gets his or her share of the money.  It usually works out at about $3 per book, often leading to a nice sum, which arrives in good time for Christmas.

The scheme is overseen by an advisory group, which includes an authors' representative. 

This year, they have tinkered with the system.  Now, instead of titles being counted, versions are counted separately.  Therefore, if a writer has published in the United States and that book reprinted in New Zealand, the two versions are counted separately, even though apart from the jacket and front matter, the book is the same.   

To take an example in my own case, Deadly Shoals, which has a total of 70 books in New Zealand libraries, according to the sampling, is counted twice: the United States hardback comes up with 21 copies, and the NZ Allen & Unwin paperback comes up as 49 copies held.  So neither breaks the 50-book mark.

This is the explanation I received from an administrator:

What has changed?
We have ceased the practice of counting all versions of a title as one item. Each version is now counted separately.
1.       To make the scheme more consistent, transparent, and fair to all authors.  Prior to 2016 versions were treated inconsistently.  For example:
·         All versions of a title were treated as one title. (This was particularly hard to maintain as the title and/or authors/illustrators or royalty entitlement changed);
·         A version of a work with a different title was either treated as the same title or as a different title;
·         A version with different authors/illustrators was either treated as the same title or as a different title;
·         A version with different authors/illustrators and a different title was either treated as the same title or as a different title.
2.       Most libraries catalogue each version separately which makes surveying - whether manually or increasingly as an automated process – more accurate.
How were authors advised of this change?
Authors were advised of this practice in the confirmation of registration communication that was sent in early March 2016:
“This year we will be conducting a full survey of all editions of your titles so please carefully check all of the information below that we have recorded about your registration. Note that any missing titles or editions will not be surveyed.”
N.B. We deliberately used the word “editions” in this communication as we believed that authors would understand this term better than “versions”.
The Public Lending Right Advisory Group was advised of this change in practice at their meeting on 7th April 2016.
What’s a version?
“Version” is not strictly synonymous with “edition” as, for example, paperback and hardback editions with the same publication details (place of publication, publisher and date of publication) are treated as the same version.  Essentially a version differs from another in that the intellectual content is different or the publication details are different.
In response to the specific points raised in your email below and visit yesterday.
Neither the Public Lending Right for New Zealand Authors Act 2008, nor the Public Lending Right for New Zealand Authors Regulations 2008, provide any guidance as to how versions should be treated, nor do they state “that each title is eligible” or refer to “each edition of each title”.  As stated above, the Library has made this change to its practice to make the scheme more consistent, transparent, and fair to all authors.  Unfortunately, your titles are negatively impacted with this change.

 This is my reply:

Hardback and paperback editions of the same book will hardly ever have the same publication date, though the publisher is the same.  The practice is to print off a relatively short run of the hardback, and when this has run out (which may take a couple of years, or even longer), a paperback edition is printed.

I'd like libraries to be made aware of this change in DIA policy.  Naturally, the purchasing officer will look for the cheapest deal, and more often than not this is through the distributors Baker & Taylor, who specialise in selling to libraries, and in selling hardbacks as they are more durable.  Often these are American editions. This is because American publishers remainder the last of their hardback run before putting the paperback on the market, and so B&T get this very cheaply, often being the only customer.  It is cheaper for the publisher to offer the remaindered copies to B&T than to put them in the bookstores.

New Zealand libraries do this shopping through B&T, so many of my American hardbacks have been brought into the country (breaking the rules, as they should have only been sold in the American territory, but no one pulls them up on this).  If the purchasing officers wanted to support New Zealand authors, they should confine themselves to the locally produced paperbacks. 

1 comment:

World of the Written Word said...

I must add that this impacts on New Zealand authors who publish only in New Zealand, too. If they publish with one house, and then some years later the book is republished by another New Zealand house, each publication is counted differently.

Does this mean that an author can circumnavigate this very unfair system by registering the book only once? Wise answers gratefully accepted!