Last week, word quickly spread across social media that the ALCS statements were up … and within minutes the ALCS statement systemwas down. That’s what happens when you offer writers free money.
If you’ve had work published in UK magazines and you’re not registered for ALCS you should be. ALCS is the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society (and yes, if you’re an author too, with a book that has an ISBN, you need to be registered with them too).
ALCS collects money for secondary rights. What this means is that large organisations such as educational establishments (universities and colleges), the NHS, and even businesses when they rent photocopiers, all pay money into a pot administered by ALCS. (Actually, every time you buy a new printer/scanner, a small portion of what you pay gets funnelled into the ALCS pot too.) Because, if you’ve had something published, then that piece is available for photocopying. Remember all those photocopied handouts you got given at school, or on that training day for your employer? Well, if they were taken from a publication, then it’s only right that those people making use of the writers’ work should make some sort of financial contribution for using it.
Once a year (actually, ALCS make two payments year, but the second payment is generally for other things, not published articles), ALCS divvies the money out to all the writers who are registered with them, and who had told them about every piece of work they’ve had published in a UK magazine that (and this is the important bit) has an ISSN (International Standard Serial Number). It doesn’t matter whether your piece was an article, or a story, as long as it has been published, and you can quotes the publications ISSN, you can register your work.
The ISSN is usually quoted in the magazine (but not always) in a font size that requires several magnifying glasses.
It also appears on the bar code, although the last digit is sometimes different, and so this isn't the correct number to use when quoting the ISSN.
But if this sounds too complicated, don’t panic. When you’re registered and ready to record a published piece of work they have a “Look Up’ facility, where you can type the name of the magazine and search their database for the right ISSN.
It costs £36 to join ALCS, but you don’t pay anything upfront - the fee is taken from your first payment. And you can currently register any published articles/short stories you’ve had published since January 2013.
It’s worth bearing in mind that if you receive a payment, that doesn’t mean your work has definitely been photocopied somewhere. But having something published means your work is available for photocopying.
Generating an income from writing has its challenges, but this is one way of maximising your writing income. And as your portfolio of work builds, it can become a significant payment.
The ALCS has an excellent handbook which you can download in PDF format that answers most questions. http://www.alcs.co.uk/Documents/ALCS-Handbook/HANDBOOK-January-2016.aspx
And for those of us who’re due a payment this year, keep an eye on your bank account from 18th March. (And don’t spend it all at once!)