Sunday 17 February 2013

Libraries 'have had their day', says Horrible Histories author Terry Deary

Schoolphobic Horrible Histories author Terry Deary has set the cat among the pigeons this week, by claiming that 'libraries have had their day'.

As one of the most popular library authors – his books were borrowed more than 500,000 times during 2011/12 – Deary will have received the maximum amount possible for a writer from the Public Lending Right scheme, an amount capped at £6,600.

"If I sold the book I'd get 30p per book. I get six grand, and I should be getting £180,000. But never mind my selfish author perception – what about the bookshops? The libraries are doing nothing for the book industry. They give nothing back, whereas bookshops are selling the book, and the author and the publisher get paid, which is as it should be. What other entertainment do we expect to get for free?" he asked.

Well, do you know what? A fair number of the books I've written earn me no royalties whatsoever*. As a result, bookshop sales make no difference to my earnings (apart from, I suppose, if a book sells well there might be more chance of future commissions). However, when one of those books is borrowed from a public library, they can earn me money again. It's not a lot, but - as a certain supermarket chain is so fond of saying - every little helps!

Between you and me, my Doctor Who books will probably end up making me more through the PLR scheme than the original commissions did, and seeing as how I'm not a million-selling author, I'm very grateful for that. And that's just my selfish author perception.

What about libraries being repositories of knowledge where anyone can better themselves, regardless of socio-economic background? What about that Terry Deary, or does that sound too much like competition?

Terry Deary - perhaps not as nice as you might have first thought.

* Confession time - a fair majority of my writing work, including my Doctor Who and the Moshi Monster books, are work for hire. No rights, no royalties.


Zanafarr said...

My problem with his comments are that they are purely self-interested. If he had made a case that libraries are becoming outdated in a digital age, he may have had a point. Instead, his focus is squarely on 'give me money', and that shows a lack of respect to his trade, to the art of the written word, and to his audience in general. Further, his works are all educational books, aimed around teaching children about history, so I find myself wondering why he derives no satisfaction from knowing that his books are teaching children in libraries across the country.

I know that both Neil gaiman and Clive barker have weighed in opposing his opinions too, which fills me with fondness that many have not lost sight of why they write in the first place, unlike Mr Deary here.

GeekGirl said...

He doesn't seem to realize the people on a low income can borrow lots of books from a library but might only be able to afford to buy a book very occasionally. Also there are several authors I have discovered by browsing the library shelves that I would never have discovered in my local bookshop.