How the RLF helps writers in financial difficulty.

When the RLF (Royal Literary Fund), contacted Novel Nights to help promote their financial help for writers we invited novelist and RLF representative, Sanjida Kay, to talk to us.

Why was the RLF set up?

The Royal Literary Fund was established in 1790 to help professional published writers. The charity is funded by donations from writers, including Arthur Ransome and A.A. Milne (thank you Winnie the Pooh!), to help other writers when a personal or a professional setback has resulted in a loss of income; it can also help older writers by providing a pension.

What help does the RLF offer to writers?

If you’re in need of either a grant to tide you over a bad patch, due to illness or cancellation of work, for instance; or are struggling because you’re retired and are worried about your pension, the charity could help. 

To be eligible, you need to have had two books published (not self-published) or plays performed. The grant is to help you deal with financial problems in general, rather than to fund you for a specific project.

More information here:

Writers can request an application form from the Royal Literary Fund’s Chief Executive, Eileen Gunn:

Do you have an example of writers you have helped?

‘I’m a full time playwright thanks to the support from the Royal Literary Fund,’ says Aisha Zia, the author of award-winning play, ‘Our Glass House’, which deals with domestic violence. Aisha left her full-time job to focus on writing commissions, but her freelance work didn’t go quite to plan and she struggled to pay her rent. She says, ‘I applied for support and managed to get a grant which I’ve used to help get me back on my feet.’

The RLF can help writers through a tough financial patch: as Aisha says, ‘I was both relieved and grateful that the RLF exists to support writers, just on a day to day basis, and that it’s not project-based, so I didn’t feel embarrassed or ashamed to say I needed help.’

The grant is for the amount needed given the writer’s income, expenditure and financial hardship and could be used to pay the rent for a few months, settle debt or buy new computer equipment. The RLF can also help older writers in need of a pension. For instance, an award-winning playwright in her seventies suffered from arthritis and had been unable to write for several months. She was worried about falling into debt and planned to sell her flat. The RLF stepped in and awarded her an annual pension.

Writers would initially speak to the Chief Executive, Eileen Gunn, to check they’re eligible to apply and to receive an application form. More details here: 

Videos about Aisha Zia:

RLF Grants and Pensions

How have author’s incomes changed since Covid?

According to a recent survey by the Society of Authors, the average annual wage for a professional writer is now below £11,000. During the height of the pandemic, authors reported the loss of a quarter to a half of their normal income with the majority (78%) saying that they had events cancelled. The Society of Authors states, ‘Three quarters of respondents said they were concerned about the impact of the health crisis on their ability to work, with 87% worried about its effect on their wellbeing.’

How are you helping writers financially during Covid?

Right now, writers, like many people, are suffering from the impact of the pandemic. The Royal Literary Fund has created and contributed to an emergency fund for professional writers, which is being administered by the Society of Authors. Writers in immediate need can apply for up to £2000:

Tell me about the RLF’s history

The charity was founded by the Reverend David Williams when he heard that a writer, Floyer Sydenham, died in a debtors’ prison, even though he’d been well respected, and had spent his working life translating Plato. One of the first people to respond to William’s plea for a fund was the Prince Regent, the future George IV.

Many successful and distinguished writers have been helped by the RLF, including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Joseph Conrad, D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce and Dylan Thomas, as well as hundreds of other writers, equally in need but perhaps less well known.

What is the RLF Fellows scheme and how can writers join?

Any professional writer can apply to the RLF’s benevolent fund – no membership is required! The RLF also runs a fellowship scheme: professional writers with the right skills and aptitude are placed at universities to help mentor students with their academic writing. This year 91 Fellows are working in 56 universities across the UK – albeit remotely right now!

The RLF provides a huge amount of resources for students on their website:

And if you’re curious about other writers’ writing process, the RLF has curated a series of articles, short films, sound bites and podcasts here:

You can keep in touch with the rlf on Twitter @rlfwriters and on Facebook here:

Thank you Sanjida for this blog post
Twitter: @SanjidaKay 
Instagram: @Sanjida.Kay