Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Pockets of hope - John Dougherty

I was at the ALCS panel discussion at the House of Commons about which Anne Rooney blogged last week, and it was pretty sobering. The figures as revealed by the ALCS survey are grim: since 2005 authors' median income has dropped by 29% and the percentage of authors making a living solely from writing has declined from 40% to 11.5%.

Yet ALCS also finds that "the wealth generated by the UK creative industries is on the increase... the creative industries are now worth £71.4 billion per year to the UK economy". In fact, it would appear that while authors are being paid less, publishers are doing quite nicely - a situation that the General Secretary of the Society of Authors describes as both unfair and unsustainable.

Meanwhile, dark mutterings and rumblings grow about literary festivals charging ticket prices and paying organisers, booksellers, musicians and entertainers - but not the authors. There's something quite absurd about all of this - the very people who create the product's value not being themselves valued.

Chipping Norton Literary FestivalThere are, however, pockets of hope. The evening before the ALCS discussion I was at another event, at The Ivy in London. This one was organised by the Chipping Norton Literary Festival, of which I am proud to be a patron, and they'd organised it in order to make a very special announcement:

From now on, any profits made from the festival "will be split equally between all authors involved."

I should say that ChipLitFest, as we like to call it, already has a reputation for looking after authors properly - great accommodation, a fabulous green room, lovely meals, and so on - and many other festivals would have rested on their laurels. But from its inception only three years ago, the organisers have been aware that without authors there is no festival; and if anyone should be rewarded for the festival's success, it's the people who create the content.

 Any chance of publishers following suit?


 John's latest book, Stinkbomb & Ketchup-Face and the Badness of Badgers, is illustrated by David Tazzyman and published by OUP.

 Stinkbomb & Ketchup-Face and the Quest for the Magic Porcupine will be published in August.


Stroppy Author said...

Well done, ChipLit! If only more authors would refuse to do things for free. I generally do, but the response is usually 'no one else minds doing it for free'. I don't think they don't *mind*, I think they don't *complain*. As a group, we tend to be too compliant, too keen to please, too - frankly - scared. The worry is that they won't ask you/publish you again if you complain. Well, if they don't ask you to do something for free again, that's no great loss, is it? And if your books are good enough to publish, publishers aren't going to reject them just because you ask for fair treatment. If they refuse fair treatment, it's up to you to choose whether to continue working with them. They *don't* hold all the cards - you're the one with the publishable book. Courage, mes braves.

Nick Green said...

The reason some authors do events for free is that they're less established and see the event as being of more benefit to themselves, in the long run, than their attendance will be to the organisers. It's all down to who perceives the greater benefit to themselves.

I agree it is unfortunate that this then drives a race to the bottom, whereby organisers get used to authors working for free. But the choice is still theirs. They can get a bigger name for money, or a relative unknown for free. Or something in between.

Another problem is that there isn't a clear and direct correlation between quality and success. It's there, but it's convoluted and tangled up with chance and circumstance too. So unfortunately it's not entirely true that a book good enough to be published will be published. Or that a book too bad to publish won't be.

-blessed holy socks, the non-perishable-zealot said...
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