Borrow or Steel? Romance writer Danielle Steel on UK-wide library '10 most-borrowed list' every year since records began

The American author holds the same place in the 'most-borrowed' list this year as she did in 1983 when the Public Lending Right chart started

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The Independent Culture

Sorry EL James but the crown for Queen of romantic fiction is yet to be wrested from the world’s fourth bestselling author Danielle Steel.

The latest figures from public libraries reveal that Steel is the only author to have made “the top ten most-borrowed” list every year since records began in 1983 despite having a reputation among critics for writing “fluff” about relationships among the rich and famous.

The popularity of the California-based novelist responsible for 80 titles and 600 million sales worldwide has remained solid over a period of 30 years judging by figures released today by Public Lending Right (PLR) which provides payment to authors from the British government when their books are loaned by public libraries.

In 1982/83 she was the UK’s eighth most-borrowed author, two years ago she held fourth position and for 2011/12 she also came eighth. In the ten years since 2002 her books have been borrowed more than 10 million times – a feat equalled only by three other authors, James Patterson, Jacqueline Wilson and Josephine Cox.

It is another extraordinary record for the Betrayal author who famously spent 390 consecutive weeks on the New York Times bestseller lists. More than half a billion copies of her books are in circulation in 28 languages and about two dozen of them have been adapted for television.

As an American Steel is not eligible for payments from the PLR but if she had been the multi-millionairess would have been paid as much as £198,000 by the British government. Authors who sign up to the PLR scheme which is funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport are paid a maximum of £6,600 per annum.

This year the PLR will pay out £6.4 million to 23,190 British authors. However, their funding was slashed by the Chancellor George Osborne in his autumn statement by 1 per cent this year and 2 per cent for 2014-15. Writers’ wages have dropped to less than 25 per cent of the national average wage as the top 10 per cent of authors earn more than 50 per cent of the total income available, according to figures from the Society of Authors.

Double Man Booker winner Hilary Mantel is a supporter of PLR. She said: “It is a public fantasy that writers get rich. Many fulfil a demand for readers who seldom buy hardbacks and may not think to buy books only borrow them. PLR, for this type of writer, is a serious contribution to an income.”

The PLR also reveal today that although borrowing from public libraries is declining overall children’s fiction borrowing has risen considerably for the past seven years with kids’ books now representing 37 per cent of all books borrowed (and increase of two per cent year-on-year).

Of the seven authors who clocked up over a million loans in 2011-2012 four of them were children’s authors (Daisy Meadows, Julia Donaldson, Francesca Simon and Jacqueline Wilson), two were romance writers (Nora Roberts and M C Beaton) and one was a crime writer (James Patterson).

Jim Parker, Registrar of Public Lending Right, said: “More women use libraries than men and they tend to bring their children along.”