Kijkje over de grens: The Educational Writers Group
In Nederland worden educatieve auteurs vertegenwoordigd door de sectie Educatieve Auteurs van de Auteursbond. Ook in andere landen bestaan soortgelijke organisaties. Welke overeenkomsten en verschillen zijn er? Hoe werken zij aan de juridische ondersteuning, professionalisering en verbinding van educatieve auteurs?
In deze editie van EduSchrift gaan wij de grens over richting onze zusterorganisatie in Engeland. Wij interviewden Ignaty Dyakov. Hij is bestuurslid van de Educational Writers Group, onderdeel van de Society of Authors, de Engelse Auteursbond.
Lees je liever in het Nederlands? Je vindt hier de Nederlandse vertaling van dit artikel.
Could you tell us about yourself, your writing and your involvement in the Society’s work?
I published my first book (an unconventional Russian language textbook) in 2013, then followed it up with other Russian and English textbooks. I also write articles, blogs and attempt to write short fiction stories. I joined the Society to get further inspiration through meeting with fellow authors. I then got involved in the committee work with the Educational Writers Group and was elected as the EWG Chair last year. I contribute to creating the programme of events, inviting speakers and presenters, chair committee meetings and write for the Group’s newsletter. In 2020, I also hope to get more involved in the work of the SoA’s Membership Sub-Committee (to expand our benefit offering for members) and Green Group (to promote sustainability). I think my main goal and dream is to push creativity and collaboration among fellow educational writers, to ensure that their works continue to be original and empowering learning but also addressing important issues our world is facing these days.
Could you tell us about history and structure of the Society of Authors?
The Society of Authors has a network of over 25 local groups across the UK and abroad with the aim of bringing members together. Each group is run by members for members and they’re a great way to meet fellow authors in your area, share knowledge and support one another. In 2019, our local groups hosted over 130 meet-ups and events for over 1,300 authors. Events include themed group discussions for members to learn from one another, workshops and talks led by authors and industry professionals, socials and informal meet-ups for authors to network and discuss their work.
Apart from local groups, we also have specialist groups, like Scriptwriters, Poets or Children’s Writers. One of the largest groups is of Educational Writers (EWG). Each group runs their own events, these are open to members and non-members and so far most of them happen in London, though since 2019 we have been working hard to move at least some of these events into the regions. For example, in 2020, EWG held one event in Warwickshire, one other is coming soon in Oxfordshire. Our flagship annual Seminar Day is held in London in June.
How do you communicate with authors?
We stay in touch with authors via a wide range of methods – online and offline. We have our quarterly member magazine, The Author, which has been our official print journal for over a century. We have our website, which gets around a quarter of a million visits each year. We distribute multiple email newsletters each month to share our news, campaigns and events – some for all members, others to specific sections of membership (either by area or professional interest, including one to members of our Educational Writers Group), and another to our non-member supporters. We have our social media channels – Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – with their combined 66,000 followers. And of course where possible we try to share our stories in the trade, national and local media. We use a range of analytics and monitoring tools to track engagement and to make sure our messages reach as far as possible. Later this year we plan to launch a podcast, while also starting to integrate The Author more closely with our online communications. We also exhibit at the London Book Show and run outreach events and deliver talks at universities and other organisations.
What are the main activities, campaigns or events of the Society of Authors and the EWG in particular?
The Society of Authors administers 23 prizes, covering poetry, translation (including the Vondel Prize for translation from the Dutch), debut novels, drama and more. We manage prizes for other organisations, as well as running our own. For educational writers, there’s the ALCS Educational Writers’ Award, which celebrates the best of non-fiction that stimulates or enhances learning. The £2,000 award is given annually with the age groups of the works under consideration rotated each year.
EWG has also introduced the award to celebrate the work of best educational editors, who are nominated by our authors, as we believe it is important to acknowledge successful and positive collaborations between authors and their editors.
Local members are welcome to bring guests. When it comes to our professional events, non-members can buy tickets at the full rate, but members are prioritised and a given discount on ticket price. Occasionally, we have guests from overseas. For example, at the latest EWG event (a talk on wellbeing for authors, which I was delivering in Warwickshire) a Canadian educational writer joined us, which was a very pleasant surprise.
In The Netherlands we have different types of authors: full-time authors who work on a royalty basis, so-called ‘broodschrijvers’ who often work with a fixed fee, teachers who are educational authors besides their job in education, and so on. What types of authors are the member of the EWG?
We also have members who are offered advance and royalty-based contracts (keeping their copyright), and those who are expected to assign copyright for a fixed fee. The key point is to ensure that the terms for the specific deal are fair and appropriate. An author might be prepared to assign copyright if, for example, they are working from a publisher’s brief and are properly remunerated for their effort. It is also important to ensure that there is clarity on other matters such as whether the author will be credited and whether they will be consulted over changes to their text.
We welcome self-published authors as members and work to ensure that the Society caters for them too.
What are the key aspects of Society’s work?
Our core mission is to empower authors, to protect their rights and further their interests. We do that by sharing the knowledge, expertise and resources they need throughout their careers; providing the support and reliable professional advice when they need it; building communities and creating opportunities for authors to meet and learn from their peers; and promoting change, lobbying for a country that values authors and their work. And we try to do this inclusively – making sure that all authors can benefit from our work, regardless of profession, background or career stage.
Could you give us some examples of campaigns and success stories?
The Educational Writers Group has been vocal in its support of textbook use in schools, and has liaised with the Department for Education on its policy in this area. We have also highlighted the need for proper library provision in schools.
The Society of Authors as a whole campaigns on a number of issues, including on copyright, fair payment for authors, and proper credit for all creators (notably translators and illustrators, who are often left out of publicity and reviews). Our C.R.E.A.T.O.R. campaign for fair contract terms encompasses many of our key lobbying areas.
A couple of other examples include our campaign for Public Lending Right to be extended to ebook library loans, which resulted in the changing of the law in 2017, and a campaign calling for payment for authors’ speaking engagements, which has led to a change in policy from a number of literary festivals.
A full list of our campaigns can be found on the Where We Stand page of our website.
Although we don’t have a ‘model contract’ agreed with publishers, the Society of Authors and the Publishers Association regularly meet to discuss professional issues. This provides a useful avenue to raise concerns, but also to collaborate where authors’ and publishers’ interests are aligned.
What’s the impact of Brexit on your work?
We are concerned about the impact of Brexit on a number of fronts, including exports, copyright, freedom of movement and travel. The European market makes up 36% of UK publishing exports, so we are calling on Government to ensure that access is maintained and there are no additional barriers to trade. The UK’s existing copyright framework must not be watered down in future trade negotiations (for example, with the US). It is also vital that the government reforms existing immigration rules to ensure that visa restrictions do not prevent European creators from entering the UK for work (either long or short term) and British authors from travelling across Europe for work or touring – otherwise our creative industry risks loses out on the pool of international creative talent and the opportunity to collaborate with EU counterparts.
One particularly frustrating casualty of Brexit is that The EU Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market will not be transposed into UK law. The directive includes many provisions which would see a more level playing field with authors when their work is used by platforms and publishers including provisions for transparency, fair pay and reversion of rights which are no longer being exploited. We and other creator’s organisations will press Government to legislate for similar provisions in UK law.
We meet with government and MPs to promote authors’ interests – the legislation to extend PLR to ebook library loans followed years of lobbying and public campaigning. We are particularly vigilant about authors’ rights in these changing times, and will be putting pressure on the Government to maintain our copyright framework and to replace any arts funding which is lost through the Brexit process.
Do you recommend rates for your authors?
We are not permitted to recommend rates as this would breach competition law. However, we do advise authors to consider what would be fair payment in return for the work they are being required to do (e.g. working out what it might be on an hourly basis and calculating what kind of salary this would compare to).
The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) collect money due to their members for secondary uses of their work such as photocopying in schools. Membership of ALCS is free to SoA members, and we campaign jointly on a number of issues. Public Lending Right gives authors a small payment whenever their work is loaned from a public library in the UK and Northern Ireland. Both organisations collect and process a large amount of data to calculate payments due to authors, and these payments can be a welcome contribution to an authors’ income.
ALCS generously sponsors some of our prizes and core projects.
The SoA has a number of charitable funds for professional authors who are suffering financial hardship, as well as the Authors’ Foundation grants for those authors with a work in progress who need help with research costs or simply ‘time to write’.
Our work is funded by our member subscriptions, and we also receive income from the literary estates that we handle. We don’t rely on government funding, however we have applied for distinct pieces of public funding to help support specific projects. We also receive funding from ALCS for specific projects, our own prizes and grants are funded by bequests, and we administer prizes on behalf of others as a paid management service.
Society of Authors: https://www.societyofauthors.org/
Educational Writers Group: https://www.societyofauthors.org/Groups/Educational
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