Frequently asked questions

Illustration © Antonio Rodriguez
From joining the SoA to using our advice — your questions answered

The SoA is a trade union for professional writers, illustrators, translators and authors of all kinds. We are a membership organisation representing 12,000 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

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.

If your complaint or concern is about a member of staff, the Chief Executive, a member of the Management Committee or the SoA as an organisation, please read our Complaints Policy and three-step complaints procedure.

If your complaint is about another Member, please see our Dignity and Respect page for our policy and approach. While we do not get involved in individual debates or disputes between authors, we will always provide private support and signposting advice.

If you witness or experience inappropriate behaviour, bullying, harassment or discrimination, read our FAQs below for further advice.

If your concern is not about the SoA or a member but is an issue on which you feel we should be taking action or you need advice please call us on 020 3880 2230 or email us at info@societyofauthors.org

If you are distressed or need urgent help or advice, please see the relevant section of our Support pages.

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.

If you have any concerns about your mental health at any time, we would recommend that you speak to your GP or mental health provider.

We hear often from writers who are struggling with the pressures of working in isolation, financial hardship, fulfilling caring duties, suffering from ill health, bereavement or loneliness, and many other difficulties that come with writing.

You are not alone. The SoA provides peer support networks by geographical area, by interest or by need. All of our groups and networks have private Facebook groups for members to share concerns online.

We also have a free and unlimited advice service for members. If you have a concern to do with your work, our team will do its best to give you some guidance. Please ask us for help.

If you would just like to talk to someone at any time, you can always call Samaritans for free on 116 123.

For further information about the different types of support available, please visit our Support pages.

Inappropriate behaviour, bullying or harassment

If the behaviour is online, you will find useful advice here: online abuse harassment and bullying.

Depending on the severity of the behaviour, if you feel able to do so, please raise this directly with the individual straight away. Explain clearly why it makes you uncomfortable and ask for the behaviour to change. If you feel comfortable doing so, draw their attention to our organisational policies:

If you do not feel comfortable raising this directly, or if this doesn’t fully resolve the issue, please see our Dignity and Respect page for further advice and information.

If your complaint is about a member of staff, the Chief Executive or a member of the Management Committee, please see our Complaints Procedure for step-by-step instructions.

If you experience any breach of the Principles set out in the Code of Conduct for Professional Behaviour in Bookselling and Publishing or in the SoA’s own Code of Conduct for Committee Members, please raise this with the Chair/person responsible for the meeting/event or any member of SoA staff.

If your complaint is about another Member, please see our Dignity and Respect page for our policy and approach. While we do not get involved in individual debates or disputes between authors, we will always provide private support and signposting advice.

If your complaint is about a member of staff, the Chief Executive, a member of the Management Committee or Group Committee, the SoA will consider and, if necessary, investigate your complaint and take whatever action is necessary to prevent a recurrence and protect the SoA, its members and staff.

Sanctions may include:

  1. warning the person involved that the particular behaviour is inappropriate and must cease;
  2. direct the person to discontinue speaking, ask for an apology, order a short adjournment of the meeting, or adjourn the meeting completely;
  3. immediate removal from a particular meeting or event without refund;
  4. denial of access to SoA offices, venues or meetings on a temporary or permanent basis;
  5. withholding of a contracted fee;
  6. removal from any committee, subject to a vote of fellow committee members;
  7. Removal from a judging panel;
  8. In the case of members, should it appear that any member’s continuance would prejudicially affect the SoA, the Management Committee may, if it thinks fit, remove them from such position (in accordance with the SoA’s Bye-laws Section 7 (‘Removal’));
  9. If the conduct complained of involves an SoA employee, the SoA will deal with the issue in accordance with the SoA’s employment policies and practices.

If your complaint is about another Member, please see our Dignity and Respect page for our policy and approach. While we do not get involved in individual debates or disputes between authors, we will always provide private support and signposting advice.

If you need assistance or advice, please see the relevant section of our Support pages, call us on 020 3880 2230 or email us at info@societyofauthors.org

You can contact Protect – the confidential advice line for individuals who have witnessed wrongdoing in the workplace, but who are unsure about how to raise their concerns. See: protect-advice.org.uk.