Frequently asked questions

The SoA is a trade union for professional writers, illustrators, translators and authors of all kinds. We are a membership organisation representing over 10,000 people from all areas of the profession.

We campaign and lobby the government on issues that impact all authors, offer detailed advice and contract vetting to our members and publish thoroughly-researched guidance for professional authors.

Read more about us and what we stand for here

Find out if you are eligible to join the SoA by takinFind out if you are eligible to join the SoA by taking our eligibility quiz. If you know you’re eligible, join now.

Being a member of our community of professional authors has a huge number of professional benefits, such as advice, discounts, guides and boardroom hire. Making the most out of your membership.

For further information on how you can manage your subscription online, see the members’ area. You can also manage your subscription over the phone by calling 020 3880 2230. You’ll be put through to a member of the team – no automated services.

The SoA offers tailored advice for our members. Please read our bespoke advice page to find out how the system works and how it can work for you.  

Our guides and articles cover all sorts of issues from copyright to marketing, agents, appearances and more.

Authors must be paid a fair price for their work. To help you understand what constitutes a fair price, we’ve put together a collection of observed rates and fees.

All feedback is important to us and we want to make it as easy as possible for those who interact with the SoA to raise a concern or to complain. Read our Complaints Policy and three-step complaints procedure.

Writing Professionally

We are unable to recommend or endorse any particular agent or publishers, however a useful resource is the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook. This book has full listings of all agents and publishers in the UK and contains some useful articles on all aspects of publication. It’s available to buy or you can pick a copy up at many local libraries.

To find out more about agents and how they work, you can download our guide to authors’ agents or browse the Association of Authors Agents (AAA) website. The AAA cannot recommend agents.

We are unable to recommend authors to a specific publisher. A useful resource for authors at any stage of their career is the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook which provides a guide to all publishers in the UK, contact details and specialities.

We aren’t able to provide our members with a standard contract but we do have a team of experienced advisors who are happy to vet your contracts and ensure that you are getting a fair deal.

You can also check our Guide to Publishing Contracts for an idea of the clauses that might be included and the rights you should consider and look at our CREATOR page for the terms we believe should be in all contracts.

Copyright and permissions 

If you write something, the copyright is normally automatically yours (unless, for example, you are writing for an employer). An old fashioned way to ‘prove’ copyright is to post yourself a copy of the document in question, so it is postmarked, and then not open the envelope.. For further guidelines on copyright see our guides.

It depends. Please have a read of our Guide to Copyright and Permissions. This should give you the information you need to work out whether or not you need to seek permission either to quote from or to record or stage a work in which you do not own the copyright. 

Living authors can usually be tracked down through their website, agency or publisher.

The WATCH database (Writers, Artists and Their Copyright Holders) is the most useful resource for finding literary estate holders, particularly for deceased authors. Section 5 of the Guide to Copyright and Permissions contains further suggestions. Foremost among these are the ALCS (Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society) and PLR (Public Lending Right), who we would recommend contacting initially.

If the author is no longer living but is not on the WATCH file, looking at obituaries can be very useful, as they often name the author’s surviving family, who may then be trace-able online, even via social media.

Financial and other concerns

You might be eligible to apply for our authors’ contingency fund. Many grants are made each year to professional authors who are in financial difficulty or for the financial relief of their dependants. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 we have distributed over £1.4 million in hardship grants to authors.

We are also one of the few organisations to make grants to writers for works in progress, currently awarding a total of £250,000 each year.

Other organisations that might be able to help are: 

  • The Royal Literary Fund: the main and largest charitable trust providing financial help to authors in financial difficulty through grants and pensions.
  • Peggy Ramsay Foundation: a fund that gives theatre writers money in order to afford them the time and space to write.

We also administer prizes to celebrate authors of all genres at every stage of their careers. Our awards for fiction, non-fiction, poetry, translation and drama, most awarded annually, are worth over £120,000 in prize money.    

The financial assistance we can offer is for professional authors, but there are also some great prizes for first-time authors, and grants made available to those starting out.

There are other places you can turn if you are struggling to cope financially:

  • The Professionals Aid Council: a national charity helping professionals and graduates in need of financial support.
  • Turn2us: a national charity that helps people in financial hardship gain access to welfare benefits, charitable grants and support services.
  • StepChange: a charity that supports those struggling with debt.
  • The Money Advice Service: a website with information on money issues and on many free organisations who provide advice and support.