Saturday, 30 October 2010

Free or Fee? Lynne Garner

Literary festivals are becoming more popular with small festivals springing up all over the place. The problem arises when we the author are contacted and asked if we would like to attend. Organisers who contact an author often make no mention of payment or offer to cover expenses. The view appears that we will do it for the love of our craft. But should we give our time freely?
Lets take a look at both sides of the argument.
Ask for a fee:
As a writer I am running a business. My writing has to make me money so I can spend time writing. If the bills cannot be paid I can’t write and have to find an alternate way to make a living. Therefore if I am to take part in a festival then that time has to earn me money. You wouldn’t expect a plumber to come to your home and fix that leak just because he loves being a plumber. So why is it expected that as business people, writers should give their time freely?
Attend for free:
Many of us are ‘jobbing’ writers and are aware that we have to become a ‘brand.’ The only way we can do this is to gain exposure and festivals are an ideal way of doing this. Festivals also give us a chance to meet our readers and obtain feedback on our books. Both of these are commodities that can be worth more than a cash payment.
In my humble opinion:
It’s obviously up to the writer to make their own decision to attend for free or to ask for a fee. However I personally feel we should gain something from attending. Your time is worth something. It really doesn’t matter if it’s in the form of cold hard cash, the ability to sell books or gain exposure. However if you actually enjoy the experience then that is just as valid a reason to attend. So decide what you want from attending and don’t feel guilty when you ask for a fee or when you decide to go for free, just as long as it’s the right decision for you. And when you’re there enjoy the event knowing your decision to attend for free or ask for a fee is the right one for you.


Rosalind Adam said...

I agree that unless you’re a voluntary worker why should you give your time for free? It’s not easy making money as a writer but then neither is it easy making money at running Writing Festivals. If you were already planning to attend a Writing Festival, then being invited for free in return for running a session seems to be a perfectly acceptable compromise and, as you say, your session will further raise your profile which in turn will boost your income. I guess it’s all about maintaining the right balance between paid and complementary attendances.

Saviour Pirotta said...

I always charge a fee for appearing in festivals but I have never had to ask for it; it was always offered. I do sessions in bookshops for free as long as there is a signing session afterwards, and my publishers have always refunded travel costs and expenses for overnight stays for these. Again, I have never had to ask.

Some authors seem to specify a number of books they expect to sell, but I've never done this myself. Sounds like a good idea, though.