You must be wondering – what is the Society of Authors? Seems like quite a curious thing, but like every industry has a union to protect the workers’ rights, similarly the Society of Authors works to protect the rights of many writers all over the world. It was founded in 1884 to also further the interests of authors. As of date, the SoA has over 9,500 members and associates and represents authors from various fields and sectors.
What do they do?
The Society of Authors plays a major role in the following:
- Advisory Role: They advise their members on many questions about the whole process of writing and also provide training for beginners.
- Represents: They represent authors in negotiating deals and contracts with their publishers so that they get improved contract terms.
- Lobby: They lobby on issues that directly affect the author – like copyrights, UK arts Funding and Public Lending Right.
- Giving Grants: They give out grants and prizes to help established writers with their works in progress. They administer the grants through foundations like the Authors’ foundation.
- Literary Representatives: They also act as the literary representatives for many writers’ estates which include a prestigious list of writers like Virginia Woolf, George Bernard Shaw, Philip Larkin and more.
- Organization of events: They also organize many events like talks, seminars, one – to – one workshops and conferences.
Writers who have been offered a contract from any publisher, agent or broadcaster may be eligible to join the society of authors. It makes no difference what their field of interest is. They can be authors of any genre – be it translating, children book writers, educational authors, professional books and more.
Ever since its inception, it has attracted a number of notable writers and poets as members and these include Tennyson who was the first president of the Society of Authors. Many of their founding members were notable writers, poets, playwrights and journalists like Thomas Hardy, H.G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw and E. M. Forster to name a few. The League of Dramatists was formed in 1931 as part of the Society by Bernard Shaw. The SoA also gave rise to the Authors’ Licensing and Collection Society much later. The Translators Association (TA) was established in 1958 and was considered to be a specialist group within the SoA.
There are many branches all over the world. Even though the Society was founded in England, a new group was founded in 1992 which was considered to be a local chapter of the Society. It was known as ‘Writers in Oxford’ and was a society established dealing with published writers who lived in the area of Oxford. Local members of the SoA founded this new chapter. Although it does have its own programme of meetings, visits and more, it also holds some joint events with its parent foundation.
They administer a number of awards and prizes for both fiction and nonfiction and some of the awards are The Betty Tras Award, The Somerset Maugham Award, The Traveling Scholarships to name a few. It also handles the administering of literary translation prizes such as the Scoot Moncrieff Prize for French Translation, The German Embassy Award for German Translation, the triennial Bernard Shaw Prize for Swedish Translation, The annual Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation and the biennial John Florio Prize for Italian Translation to name a few.
The new areas that the Society of Authors has been particularly concentrating on are the issue of book-pricing, libraries, fees, contract and copyright terms. They have grown to create networks which are both real as well as virtual to help authors connect with each other to find a support group.