Society of Authors

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The Society of Authors
Founded1884; 138 years ago (1884)
HeadquartersLondon, UK
More than 11,000
Key people
Philip Pullman, President

Joanne Harris, Chair

Nicola Solomon, Chief Executive

The Society of Authors (SoA) is a United Kingdom trade union for professional writers, illustrators and literary translators, founded in 1884 to protect the rights and further the interests of authors. As of September 2019, it represents 11,000 members and associates.

The SoA vets members' contracts and advises on professional issues, as well as providing training, representing authors in collective negotiations with publishers to improve contract terms, lobbying on issues that affect authors such as copyright, UK arts funding and Public Lending Right.[1]

The SoA administers a range of grants for writers in need (The Authors' Contingency Fund, The Francis Head Bequest and The P.D. James Memorial Fund) and to fund work in progress (The Authors’ Foundation and K Blundell Trust), awarding more than £250,000 to writers each year.[2]

The SoA also administers prizes for fiction, non-fiction, poetry, translation and drama, including the Betty Trask Award and the Somerset Maugham Award.

The SoA acts as the literary representative for the estates of a number of writers. This list includes George Bernard Shaw, Virginia Woolf, Philip Larkin, E. M. Forster, Rosamond Lehmann, Walter de la Mare, John Masefield and Compton Mackenzie.[3]

Authors of all kinds are eligible to join, whether they are already established or at the beginning of their careers.[4]


The SoA has counted among its members and presidents numerous notable writers and poets, including Tennyson (first president), George Bernard Shaw, John Galsworthy, John Edward Masefield, Thomas Hardy, H. G. Wells, J. M. Barrie and E. M. Forster.[5]

Bernard Shaw was an early member who took a prominent part in action and discussions, founding the League of Dramatists in 1931 as part of the SoA. The Authors' Licensing and Collection Society was also formed after much action by the SoA.

Well known contemporary members include Philip Pullman (SoA president since 2013), Malorie Blackman, Neil Gaiman, Philip Gross, Judith Kerr, Hilary Mantel, J. K. Rowling and Lemn Sissay.[6]

The Society of Authors' quarterly journal, The Author, was first published in 1890. Its first editor was novelist and historian Walter Besant, the SoA's founding Chair.[7] He was succeeded by George Herbert, author Denys Kilham Roberts, author C. R. Hewitt (writing as "C. H. Rolph"), the theatre critic, biographer and newspaper editor Richard Findlater, author Derek Parker, novelist Andrew Taylor, novelist and publisher Fanny Blake and novelist and publisher Andrew Rosenheim. Since November 2012 the journal's editor has been the writer and critic James McConnachie.

In 1958 the Translators Association (TA) was established as a specialist group within the Society of Authors.


In 1969 the British Library acquired the archive of the Society of Authors from 1879 to 1968 consisting of six hundred and ninety volumes.[8] The British Library acquired a further two hundred and fifty-eight volumes in 1982 and 1984.[9]

Awards and prizes[edit]

Prizes for fiction, poetry, and non-fiction administered by the SoA include:[10]

The organisation also administers a number of literary translation prizes, including:

It has previously administered the following prizes:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "About the SoA", The Society of Authors.
  2. ^ "Grants", The Society of Authors.
  3. ^ "Estates", The Society of Authors.
  4. ^ "Are you eligible?", The Society of Authors.
  5. ^ "Society of Authors - history". Archived from the original on 11 November 2007. Retrieved 4 November 2007.
  6. ^ "Council & President", The Society of Authors.
  7. ^ "History". The Society of Authors. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  8. ^ Society of Authors Papers, archives and manuscripts catalogue, the British Library. Retrieved 2 June 2020.
  9. ^ Correspondence and papers of the Society of Authors and League of Dramatists, archives and manuscripts catalogue, the British Library. Retrieved 2 June 2020.
  10. ^ "Society of Authors -Prizes for fiction and non-fiction". Archived from the original on 7 June 2008. Retrieved 21 June 2008.
  11. ^ "The ADCI Literary Prize". The Society of Authors. Retrieved 29 June 2022.

External links[edit]