About the Society of Authors
The SoA is a trade union for professional authors founded in 1884. Its first president was Tennyson. It exists to empower authors, protecting their rights and furthering their interests. It is a successful and growing organisation and as of 2019 has over 10,600 members from all areas of writing including fiction and nonfiction, poets, illustrators, translators, performers and scriptwriters. We also welcome emerging writers and poets. See the eligibility criteria
Mission Statement and Strategy
Individual strategy documents for Membership, Events, Estates, Prizes and Awards are available can be sent on request.
Our structure is both unusual and complicated. We are one of very few special register bodies, which means we are both a company limited by shares (with a share capital of roughly £70) and a trade union.
A detailed investigation and discussion on the structure in 2014 concluded that any change in the structure would be entirely cosmetic in practice, not to mention expensive, time-consuming, complex and could endanger, among other things, our trade union status and the continued administration of our grants and awards.
SoA shares are nominal only, and are held by the President, the Treasurer, and a member of the Council chosen by the President. These nominees are legally bound to act only as instructed by the full membership making its wishes known via a formal voting procedure.
As a member you will be aware of the broad range of the SoA’s services and we urge you to explore this website for the full scope of our work. A brief summary is below.
1. Contracts and other member advice including:
d) Negotiating, marketing and selling
e) Small claims and chasing debts
f) Legal- defamation, privacy, copyright
g) Wills and Estates
2. Collective negotiation
Negotiation on rates and collective bargaining, for instance with the BBC.
a) Monitoring, informing and lobbying:
(i) Liaison with other trade bodies.
(ii) Negotiation and lobbying with publishers and agents around issues such as ebook royalties.
(iii) Industry campaigns such as World Book Day and Night.
(iv) Liaison with pressure groups: Libraries Campaign, Pen, Libel Reform etc.
b) Comment to press on publishing industry matters.
c) Monitoring, informing and influencing the political process:
(ii) Improved Public Funding and resource support for literary creation e.g. PLR, defamation and copyright, libraries and reading.
Please note that employees, trustees (or anyone directly connected with the administration of the Society of Authors’ grants and prizes) may not apply for any of the grants and prizes administered by the Society of Authors.
6. Membership Information and Community
About the Management Committee
The Management Committee consists of 12 elected professional writers who serve for three years.
Management Committee members are unpaid volunteers who receive out-of-pocket expenses only. The work of Management Committee members is very important and therefore we do, please, urge you to claim your expenses for serving your fellow authors. Read the expenses policy
Each member has an equal say and equal vote, although the Chair has a casting vote. The Honorary Treasurer (Barry Kernon), the Chief Executive and the Chairs of the following SoA groups - Society of Authors in Scotland, the Translators Association, the Children’s Writers and Illustrators Group, the Scriptwriters Group and the Educational Writers Group also have the right to attend meetings and speak, but do not have a vote. View the current Management Committee
The Management Committee elects a new Chair every two years (which may mean an extension of the term of office of the Chair).
The SoA is a limited company. Management Committee members are directors of the company. The SoA also manages around 13 charitable trusts which give out grants and prizes. The SoA is corporate trustee of these and, accordingly, the Management Committee members are also responsible as a trustee for these. Management Committee members therefore have all the duties of a director and trustee set out below although most of the day-to-day duties are delegated to the staff. View the current staff team and their duties
The SoA’s President is Philip Pullman. The President is an ambassador for the SoA and comments on broad policy issues, but has no role in the direction or governance of the SoA. The SoA also has a Council of eminent writers. Council Member is an accolade conferred on members of high standing who have been exceptional in their support of the SoA. View the list of current Council members
The Council has two powers: they elect the President and if the SoA ceases to exist for any reason, they will ensure that any assets are passed to a similar organisation. The everyday management of the SoA is carried out by the staff and the Management Committee.
Management Committee meetings
Meetings are usually held on Thursdays at the SoA Offices from 2.30pm to around 5.30pm in January, March, May, July, September and November. Please login
to view the accounts, budgets, agendas and minutes.
The 2019 AGM will be held on 21 November in London. All Members and Associates are sent details with The Author.
The SoA provides annual training for Management Committee members and you are encouraged to attend.
2020 MC meeting dates:
- 23 January 2020
- 26 March 2020
- 21 May 2020
- 16 July 2020
- 17 September 2020
- 19 November 2020
Committee members are urged to attend as many meetings as possible. They are also encouraged to become active members of the subcommittees. Management Committee members also receive and are asked to consider issues between meetings by email.
- The SoA's Translation Prizes are held in February.
- The Awards party is normally held in June.
- The AGM is held in November.
- The ALCS Reception is held in December.
Management Committee members will be invited and are encouraged to attend. They will also be encouraged to attend other external events.
Management Committee meetings are subject to a number of protocols:
Duties of Management Committee
The Management Committee works as a team to make decisions, and has ultimate responsibility for the SoA. All major policy and strategy decisions are taken by the Management Committee and are accountable to members, while the administration of the SoA and the day-to-day running of the office lie with the Chief Executive, Nicola Solomon, and the staff.
Management Committee duties include:
Internal controls: the Management Committee should maintain, and regularly review, the SoA internal controls, performance reporting, policies and procedures.
working with the staff to set the strategy goals for the SoA. The SoA has agreed an overarching strategy document covering all areas of its activities. View the current strategy
Prudence: the Management Committee must act prudently to protect the assets and property of the SoA and ensure that they are used to deliver the SoA’s objectives.
Managing risk: the Management Committee should understand and regularly review the risks to which the SoA is subject and take action to manage the risks identified.
Managing staff and volunteers: the Management Committee needs to understand the distinction between employees and volunteers and ensure that good practice in the recruitment and management of both staff and volunteers is in place.
As a Management Committee member you are a director of the company and a corporate trustee of the associated trusts and charities.
Management Committee Code of Conduct
It is the responsibility of Management Committee members to:
Act within the governing document and the law
– being aware of the contents of the SoA’s governing document and the law as it applies to the SoA. See the Governance section
Act in the best interest of the SoA as a whole – considering what is best for the organisation and its beneficiaries and avoiding bringing the SoA into disrepute.
Manage conflicts of interest effectively – registering, declaring and resolving conflicts of interest. Not gaining materially or financially unless specifically authorised to do so.
Have a sound and up-to-date knowledge of the SoA and its environment - understanding how the SoA works and the environment within which it operates.
Attend meetings and other appointments or give apologies – considering other ways of engaging with the organisation if regularly unable to attend meetings.
Prepare fully for meetings and all work for the SoA – reading papers, querying anything you don’t understand and thinking through issues in good time before meetings.
Actively engage in discussion, debate and voting in meetings – contributing positively, listening carefully, challenging sensitively and avoiding conflict.
Act jointly and accept a majority decision – making decisions collectively, standing by them and not acting individually unless specifically authorised to do so.
Work considerately and respectfully with all
– respecting diversity, different roles and boundaries, and avoiding giving offence. See our Dignity and respect
page for further information.
You must obey the law:
Company law requires you to ensure that the staff produce proper accounts and send various documents to Companies House. Other laws include areas such as health and safety, employment law and tax. You may be responsible for the actions of SoA employees. Acting improperly can, in extreme circumstances lead to fines, disqualification from being a director, personal liability for the SoA but, in practice, most of the functions above are carried out routinely by the SoA.