Category: Past meetings and events

Summer Reception and APWG Authors’ Earnings Report Launched

Writers, MPs and Lords attended the House of Commons launch of a report by the All Party Parliamentary Writers Group (APWG) which calls for immediate action to reverse a steep decline in writers’ incomes.

The annual APWG Summer Reception at the House of Commons centred on the launch of Supporting the Writers of Tomorrow. This report, the result of our Inquiry into Authors’ Earnings, makes recommendations to the Government based on evidence given to the Inquiry by a wide range of professional working writers, as well as industry bodies.

Writers attending the APWG Summer Reception included Anthony McGowan, Eley Williams, Abir Mukherjee, and 2018 Man Booker Prize winner, Anna Burns. They heard Rt Hon John Whittingdale OBE MP, Chair of the APWG (pictured left), launch the report by thanking all those who gave evidence to the Inquiry, including the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), the Association of Authors’ Agents, Hachette UK, the Society of Authors, the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, the Publishers Association, as well as ALCS.

Mr Whittingdale continued: “What the report recognises is the importance of writing. Our creative industries continue to be enormously successful and underlying their success in almost every case are writers. Without writers we could not be as successful as we are. And yet it causes us concern that while our creative industries are continuing to thrive, authors earnings have been falling.”

Mr Whittingdale went on to state the APWG’s commitment to a robust copyright regime, to funding intervention from the Government where necessary, and to the equal treatment of printed and ebooks; including the abolition of VAT on ebooks. “A tax on books in any form is deeply regrettable,” he said. Other desirable measures in support of writers would include the creation of a Creators’ Council; addressing issues around diversity including the North-South divide; a review of tax and benefit rules; and support for independent bookshops.

Rebecca Pow MP, the newly appointed Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism (pictured right) and herself an author, also spoke at the launch. Commenting on the report launch she said: “I was particularly interested to come along today because my background is as a journalist and broadcaster focused on farming, rural affairs and gardening. And I so know it’s tougher and tougher for writers to make a living, and I understand the challenges that authors face. I also don’t need any convincing about the importance of writers and the position they hold in society.” She paid tribute to the likes of the Public Lending Right scheme, which this year celebrates its 40th birthday, and Arts Council England in supporting a diverse writing profession.

Supporting the Writers of Tomorrow is available to download here. The recommendations we offer are designed to ensure better support for authors, while also improving government engagement with creators; protecting the success of the UK publishing industry beyond Brexit; and ensuring fairness in the bookselling market.

Our recommendations to the Government include:

  1. the adoption of new copyright rules proposed in the recently passed EU copyright directive
  2. the protection and promotion of the UK’s existing, effective copyright system
  3. the establishment of a Creators’ Council to look at a variety of issues including diversity
  4. a reduction in the rate of VAT on ebooks
  5. a review of the tax and benefit rules for authors
  6. the creation of a ‘level playing field’ between high-street and online booksellers.

We urge all MPs and Peers to urge action from the Government on these points, if you would require any assistance to do so please contact us

The contribution made to the UK economy by the creative industries, which now employ 1 in 11 working people, continues to grow and is valued at £101.6 billion. However, the most recent piece of research undertaken on behalf of ALCS by CREATe, University of Glasgow, shows that writers’ earnings have fallen by 42% in real terms since 2005.

In addition, the 2018 ALCS survey showed that female authors earn around 25% less than their male counterparts, a discrepancy that results both from lower rates of pay and a poorer breadth of opportunities, particularly in film and television.

Contributors to the Inquiry also raised concerns that a decline in authors’ earnings could discourage new writers from taking up the profession, exacerbating the lack of diversity in the publishing and creative industries. Figures from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport show that 92.5% of workers in the creative industries and digital sector come from more advantaged social groups, compared with 67.3% for the general UK workforce.

Photographs © Nikki Powell

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APWG Winter Reception 2018

On the 4th of December 2018 writers, Lords and MPs attended the All Party Parliamentary Writers Group (APWG) winter reception.

At the APWG Winter Reception the winner of the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) Educational Writers’ Award was revealed. Proceedings began with a speech by Giles Watling MP, who gave an insight into his 50-year career as an actor and likened the small amount of royalties he still receives for television re-runs to the money authors receive for their writing. Mentioning the findings of ALCS’ most recent authors’ earnings survey, he pointed out that the average author doesn’t earn enough to make the income tax threshold. He commended the perseverance of authors, telling them ‘nothing happens without you – there’s no informative leaflet, no textbook, no play, no illuminating children’s book… it starts with you’. Giles also announced that ALCS now has a landmark 100,000 Members.

Mat Pfleger, Chief Executive of the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) outlined his organisation’s work in selling licenses to educational institutions, government bodies and others that ensure creators are rightfully remunerated for the reuse of their work. As well as collecting secondary royalties for ALCS’ 100,000 Members, the CLA also collects for 50,000 visual artists and around 3,500 publishers. Mat highlighted CLA research in 2017 which showed that ‘many teachers spend up to 5 hours a week sorting content for use in lessons’. As a result of this, he said, ‘CLA is working on a number of initiatives to support the Department for Education’s goal to reduce teacher workload but also to support schools in making the best use of quality published content rather than relying on the web’. More details of these CLA initiatives are due to be revealed in 2019.

Tom Watson MP, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, then spoke about the enduring importance of books in our society, emphasizing the strong association between critical thinking, creativity and books. He praised the books shortlisted for this year’s Educational Writers’ Award, commenting they ‘are all brilliant and their topics are very, very important’. Tom was passionate about the need for children to have access to books, calling out the fact that ‘creativity and culture are being undervalued in our schools, with young people missing out on creative skills they need throughout their working lives’. Tom concluded with a heartfelt plea for the importance of libraries. ‘In the words of the great Joni Mitchell “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.” And that’s never been more true than for Britain’s library network.’

Océane Toffoli, Senior School Librarian at Wimbledon High School and one of the judges for this year’s Educational Writers’ Award, introduced the shortlist. Around 40 books were entered for the Award, and the competition was fierce, she said. Tom Watson then announced that the winner was Cath Senker for her book, Far From Home: Refugees and Migrants Fleeing War, Persecution and Poverty, published by Franklin Watts. Cath Senker thanked her editor, the commissioner and refugees and volunteers who work with refugees. She gave an impassioned speech about the need to help those seeking refuge and encouraged people to do all they could to help the refugee community.

Pictured: Tom Watson MP and EWA winner, Cath Senker

Photographs © Richard Lewis

All Party Writers Group Summer Reception

From announcing the winner of the ALCS-sponsored Copyright Knights and Plagiarism Pirates National Literacy Trust competition, to hosting the festivities of National Writing Day, this summer’s APWG reception was bursting with activity. The official release of the ALCS Authors’ Earnings 2018 survey findings, which predictably shows the financial struggle writers are currently battling, also culminated in a call to action that MPs and writers alike were keen to respond to.

Rt Hon John Whittingdale OBE MP, Chair of the APWG, opened the event by discussing the importance of the APWG in an age when being an author is becoming increasingly difficult. He spoke about a recent meeting he’d attended – along with Barbara Hayes of ALCS and Nicola Solomon of the Society of Authors – with the new minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, Michael Ellis MP, in which the extension of PLR to elending had been discussed along with the findings of the ALCS Authors’ Earnings 2018 survey. In parallel to these findings, the APWG has launched a call for evidence; encouraging all types of writers to provide written evidence on the professional challenges specific to authors, as well as the position of writers in the creative industry.

Tony Bradman, children’s author and ALCS Chair, then officially announced the ALCS authors’ earnings 2018 findings in more detail, as well as discussing how these figures actually affect writers. He spoke frankly about his past experiences of going into schools and having children ask him about the earnings of writers. He said they were shocked to learn that “if [he had] a book sold at £3.99 as a trade price, [he’d] receive about 20p. And this amount has only decreased over the years”. When you take a look at the fact the median annual income of writers in 2017 was £10,500, compared to £12,330 in 2005, it makes sense that Bradman’s percentage cut of his work would be so low.

With the release of these figures, and the creation of movements like Content for Education, now more than ever writers need the support of legislators to help protect their creative futures. This is why groups like the APWG are vital to share knowledge about the environment in which writers strive to earn a living so that MPs and Lords can consider this when seeking any legislative changes. Bradman took a few moments to speak about the importance of fighting for writers rights:

“The thing we say to the APWG, and the thing we say to you, is we must protect the copyright legislation that makes it possible for us to get value for our work. At the same time, we must enhance people’s understanding of the value of our work. It’s economic, but it’s moral too. We are the unacknowledged legislators. We are the people who produce the books your kids read in school so they can study literacy, we are the people who produce the books you read on holiday or when you go to bed at night. We’re the people who produce the pharmaceutical texts, the legal texts, the stuff about politics, non-fiction. We have to be able to continue to do that; to generate those intellectual, cultural and economic returns to the country and get value for our work.”

Bradman also spoke about the importance of National Writing Day, suggesting that “kids are always interested in the writing process – but with restrictions on time and budgets in schools they don’t always get access to that kind of creativity”, and going on to say he was encouraged by the success of First Story, the founders of National Writing Day, connecting with so many schools around the country. While Monica Parle, Director of First Story, admitted “it’s getting harder to go into schools and inspire young children with writing”, they ran 85 residencies in secondary schools this year, up from 65 last year, which shows an encouraging interest in writing involvement.

Celebrating National Writing Day was a key component of this summer’s APWG; not only was the room filled with writers, and MPs who support the creative process, but we were lucky enough to have Children’s Laureate, award-winning author and illustrator Lauren Child provide an insight into how she became an author. She spoke about her writing journey and how it not only become her career, but how it also helped her grow as a person: “the part of me that felt very diminished, grew a little, and that is one of the wonderful things that drawing, or music or writing can really do for you”.

Among this celebration of writing Elias Atkinson, the winner of the ALCS-sponsored National Literacy Trust competition Copyright Knights and Plagiarism Pirates, was presented with his award. The competition was designed to explain the challenging concepts of copyright and plagiarism to children in Key Stages 1–3 in a vibrant and memorable way. Elias wrote his own copyright code of conduct and received his award from Lauren Child after Jonathan Douglas, CEO of the National Literacy Trust, had said a few words. Having recently conducted research into the importance of literacy for children’s development, he spoke about a significant finding: “Kids who write for enjoyment are seven times more likely to achieve above their age in writing tests – it’s so important that the enjoyment isn’t the icing on the cake, it is the cake!” When you look at findings like this and take note of Lauren Child’s personal journey with writing, it’s easy to see why writing, for pleasure as well as for work, is an activity that should be widely celebrated.

Douglas went on to discuss the significance of the National Literacy Trust’s relationship with ALCS: “when we work with ALCS, we celebrate the fact that in return for sharing and telling their stories, writers should expect recognition for their writing and expect respect for their creativity” which encapsulates the objective of the APWG and ALCS, and echoed the theme of the afternoon – that writers deserve to have the stability and protection to create content not just for others to enjoy, but for the cultivation of their own creative lives.


You can read the results of the authors’ earnings findings here and further information on the APWG inquiry into authors’ earnings can be found here.

Pictures © Richard Lewis

Annual General Meeting 2018

On 27th June, 2018 the All Party Writers Group held the Annual General Meeting of the group for 2018.

The group elected the following officers:

Rt Hon John Whittingdale MP – Chair

Peter Wishart MP – Vice Chair

Giles Watling MP – Vice Chair

Lord Clement-Jones – Vice Chair

Baroness Benjamin – Secretary

Lord Dubs – Treasurer

In the year ahead Rt Hon John Whittingdale MP, Chair of the APWG told set out  the focus of the APWG in the coming year:

  1. Authors earnings: The APWG has launched an inquiry into authors’ earnings to further our understanding of how authors’ earnings have changed and what can be done to improve the situation of authors. After taking evidence the APWG will report on its findings at the Winter Reception in December.
  2. Fair contracts: the APWG will continue to encourage authors’ organisations to work with industry to establish high-level principles and best practice standards to apply to contracts between authors and those exploiting their works. In addition to this the APWG will support efforts to raise the issue in parliament and suggest potential legislative measures that would establish a better baseline for authors’ contracts.
  3. Brexit and copyright reform: As we leave the EU we will need to transfer a significant amount of EU legislation on copyright into UK legislation. Throughout these processes and debates we must argue for a balanced approach preserving a writer’s right to be fairly remunerated for the use of their works.

Minutes from the AGM can be found here: Minutes of 2018 AGM.

The annual All Party Writers Group (APWG) Winter Reception, 5th of December

The APWG hosted writers, industry professionals and parliamentarians for the presentation of two awards.
First was the 2017 Educational Writers’ Award, the UK’s only award for creative educational writing, which was won by The Book of Bees, written by Wojciech Grajkowski, illustrated by Piotr Socha, and translated into English from the Polish by Agnes Monod-Gayraud. The Book of Bees is a witty book which tracks bumble bees from the age of the dinosaurs to their current plight, swarming with information along the way about the role bees have played throughout history and in the rest of the natural world.

The winner of the Educational Writers’ Award – on its 10th anniversary this year – was announced by John Whittingdale MP, Chair of the APWG.  Roger Thorp, Editorial Director at winning publisher, Thames & Hudson, accepted the award on behalf of the author and illustrator from John Glen MP (both pictured above), Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism.

This year’s judges were school librarian Marion Le Lannou; London headteacher Mike Reeves; and writer, editor and publisher of books for young people Annemarie Young, who described the judging process as “tough but rewarding”. She added “good non-fiction deserves to be treated as literature, and deserves more support”.

Now in its tenth year, the Educational Writers’ Award was established in 2008 by the Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society (ALCS) and the Society of Authors (SoA) “to celebrate educational writing that inspires creativity and encourages students to read widely and build up their understanding of a subject beyond the requirements of exam specifications”.

The second award of the day went to children’s author, Cressida Cowell, who won the Ruth Rendell Award for the author or writer who has done the most to raise literacy levels in the UK, either through their writing and books, or through their advocacy and championing in the cause of literacy.

The Ruth Rendell Award was established in 2016 by ALCS and the National Literacy Trust in memory of bestselling novelist Ruth Rendell who died in 2015 aged 85. Known for writing thrillers and psychological murder mysteries, including the Inspector Wexford series, she was a long-time champion of the National Literacy Trust and its work to raise literacy levels in the UK.

Accepting the Award, Cressida Cowell said:

“I’m deeply touched and honoured to be the recipient of this year’s Ruth Rendell Award. Thank you so much to the National Literacy Trust, ALCS and the judging panel. I do feel, though, that I should be passing it back to the National Literacy Trust, whose unstinting work on behalf of children is so crucial. I’m part of a community of authors, librarians, teachers, booksellers and literacy organisations whose advocacy is still very badly needed: one in eight disadvantaged children still do not own a book, and one in three children leave primary school lacking the ability to read well. My first role as a children’s book writer is to get as many children as possible reading for pleasure, in the same way that I read for the joy of it when I was a child. Books have a unique capacity for awakening empathy and creative thinking, and reading for pleasure has a significant, measurable impact on academic achievement, happiness and earning potential.”

Cressida Cowell (pictured left with John Glen MP) is the author and illustrator of the bestselling How to Train Your Dragon book series. Over the past year, she has travelled the length and breadth of the UK to promote reading for enjoyment and give creative writing and events and workshops to 15,000 school children. She has also worked as an author ambassador for a wealth of literacy campaigns on behalf of charities and organisations including the National Literacy Trust, BookTrust, The Reading Agency, World Book Day and the Premier League.

Commenting on the decision of the judging panel to give the second Ruth Rendell Award to Cressida Cowell, Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust said:

“We are delighted to announce Cressida as the winner of this year’s Ruth Rendell Award. Cressida lives and breathes her faith in the transformative power of books, making it both her personal and professional mission to change children’s lives through literacy. Not only have Cressida’s wonderfully written and illustrated books inspired millions of children to fall in love with reading, but her workshops and events are legendary for inspiring children to start writing stories of their own. Cressida’s wonderful impact on children’s literacy in the UK cannot be underestimated.”

Barbara Hayes, Deputy Chief Executive of ALCS, said:

“Ruth was for many years an officer of the All-Party Parliamentary Writers Group, and a great advocate for writers and literacy, and we’re absolutely thrilled to be involved in this fitting tribute to her. Our congratulations go to Cressida who is a worthy winner of this award.”

Press releases and articles

A Hive of Information! The Book of Bees wins the UK’s only award for creative educational writing

Cressida Cowell crowned UK literacy champion as she wins Ruth Rendell Award 2017

ALCS: The House of Commons Abuzz: Our Worthy Westminster Winners

All Party Writers Group elects officers

The All Party Writers Group (APWG) is pleased to announce that John Whittingdale MP has been elected as the new Chair of the Group. To support John Whittingdale in his role, Lord Tim Clement-Jones and Pete Wishart MP will act as co-Vice Chairs. Baroness Benjamin remains in the role of Secretary and Lord Dubs has taken on the role of Treasurer.

John Whittingdale has a long history supporting the creative industries through his chairmanship of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, having previously chaired the All Party Writers Group and other Groups relevant to intellectual property and during his time serving as the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. A strong supporter of creators’ rights, he says: I am delighted to have been elected as Chair of the All Party Writers Group. Immediate priorities are to ensure that creators are not harmed by Brexit; this will mean scrutinizing how we adapt EU laws on copyright into our own legislation with the Repeal Bill and seeing where we can adopt the progress for creators that the UK drove the EU to achieve in the first place. We must also work to better understand the situation of the working life of an author and how we can ensure creators are fairly rewarded for their work.

APWG Winter Reception 2016

The All Party Writers Group winter reception was held on the Terrace at the House of Commons on the 6th December 2016. The reception included the presentation of the Educational Writers’ Award and the inaugural Ruth Rendell Award for services to literacy.

Pete Wishart MP, Chair of the Group announced the winner of the Educational Writers Award, “This is Not a Maths Book: A Smart Art Activity Book“, written by Anna Weltman, and illustrated by Edward Cheverton and Ivan Hissey. Andy McNab received the Ruth Rendell Award for services to literacy.

All Party Writers Group Summer Reception

The APWG Summer Reception was held on the 24 May in the Cholmondeley room at the House of Lords and was hosted by Lord Clement-Jones.

 

The focus of the event was on increasing and promoting diversity in the creative industries. Pete Wishart MP, Chair of the Group and Ed Vaizey MP, Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy both gave speeches. They were followed by Baroness Floella Benjamin who gave a passionate speech on ensuring that the whole of society is properly represented in TV and literature. Writer Shai Hussain ended the presentation with a funny and insightful speech on avoiding stereotypes in TV and literature and normalising representations of characters from BAME backgrounds.