Saturday, 31 August 2019

Perks for Authors - Chitra Soundar

Having worked for a long time in the corporate sector, where perks might include free coffee at work or discounts for art and culture or free museum passes, I wondered if authors get perks and if they don’t, would they like to get some exciting extras?

Between the advance that comes in instalments far apart (for new deals) and royalties that comes once or twice a year (depending on the publisher), a writer does have to do things with life. Life does go on and holidays have to be had, new stories have to be written and we need to invite the muse by doing interesting things.

So I posed this question on Twitter.

I must say the discussion that ensued was unexpected. So broadly here are the two types of perks authors would like.

Regular perks as we know it

Some (like me) wanted writing retreats to be gifted to us while others wanted free notebooks. That got me thinking. What are the 5 things I’d like for free if I’m a writer who cannot afford a lot of things. For the purposes of this list (and otherwise for real), it goes without saying that I’m neither a bestselling authors nor a celebrity turned children's author. Just a regular one, who writes one word after another, sometimes they make sense and sometimes they don’t and I’ve to start over.

Here is my Top 5 – some are absolutely predictable. Some might make you think.

Plain A5 and A4 Moleskins in Reef Blue, Dandelion Yellows and other wonderful colours. I’ll take a classic option or the Cahiers anyday. 

Notebooks without colourful pens would be a crime. So wonderful pens that glide on paper and lets me write as fast as my words are tumbling out.

Subsidised membership to university libraries and online archives to do research

Subsidised membership to a spa or a retreat

And finally, option to grab tickets for theatre and musicals and cinemas.

But then the responses on Twitter took a serious turn. Some writers just wanted their publisher to be more proactive. Some wanted their publisher to keep them informed. 

Here are the unusual perks writers would like to have...

1. Keeping us informed of rights sales on time. It’s nice to find out from the rights team or the editor or the publisher that they have given rights to an educational app or a literacy programme (even for free). Of course if they have sold rights to a foreign country or they have set up distribution in a different country. It’s very odd to find out for the first time from social media.
Yes it’s true. In just one month, I found out via social media about three different publishers giving rights / changing distribution / collaborating on projects on Twitter. 

Frequently this is because the rights team have never met the author or they don’t have contact details etc. Wearing my corporate communications hat on, I’d say an internal communication to editorial and publicity teams from the rights team will create a buzz and these micro-achievements can garner some free publicity and word of mouth. 

2. Letting us know if our work is going to appear on TV and we are not credited for it or worse informed about it. 

In a recent tweet, an illustrator who illustrated a famous writer’s book found out via social media, that her book is being adapted for the BBC without her artwork. There might be valid reasons for  this. But it is bad for her to find out from BBC’s twitter account without crediting her original work.

3. Following authors and illustrators that have been published by the house on Twitter so they can RT a tweet that features their book. A missed opportunity?

While we are here on publicity, give us press releases. I know that trade industry magazines like The Bookseller decide which press release to use and which ones won’t interest their audience. But not doing the press release makes us feel a bit left out.

4. Keeping authors and illustrators informed of project schedules. I worked as a project manager managing multi-million, international projects for over 16 years. Project Management 101 tells me all stakeholders need to know the schedule. Unless some writers and illustrators get anxious when given a deadline, it is good practice to let them know – when to expect edits, when will the proofs come in, when are the bloggers being contacted. When writers and illustrators are aware of the schedule, perhaps they can support the process better.

It’s worse when the writer is on holiday (we do take irregular holidays, as we work often doing festivals and other things during normal vacation time), if an edit is dropped on them for urgent attention, it creates stress not just for the author or illustrator, but also for their families. 
It is bad enough authors are often living in their heads and even during holidays jotting down ideas. It is worse if they have to close themselves in the hotel room and write for hours when the children are squealing by the poolside.

5. Book launches are a great way to connect influencers, booksellers, librarians with the creators of the book. It will be great to arrange a launch for books - creating a splash that can propel the book into the attention of buyers. Some publishers (especially larger ones) do arrange book launches. But often the author is not consulted on guest lists, or the venue or the dates. Sometimes it's nice to have another author or an industry person interview the author / illustrator / creator - to highlight what's special about the book.

Basically what we are telling the industry is -  Tell us you appreciate us. We are the backbone of a 5-billion-dollar industry. Without the words and artwork, all books will be just notebook with blank pages. 
The above post written from my point of view is a consolidation of many offline chats with the creatives. It's not about one publisher or team. This post is not a finger-pointing – we are genuinely asking for a collaborative process that nurtures our creative side while you strategise the commercial side.

Are you a creative who wants other perks? Tell us in the comments.

Chitra Soundar is an Indian-born British writer, storyteller and author of children’s books, based in London. Her next book launch is on 3rd October and you can find out more here
Follow her on Twitter @csoundar.


Stroppy Author said...

All good stuff! To avoid the edits-on-holiday issue, I tell editors well in advance if I am going away for more than a couple of days (which I rarely do, to be honest) and that I will not be taking a computer. Then they can schedule around it.

As for a retreat... if you want a large-ish house with garden and easy access to a copyright library, you can have my house whenever I'm away. I'll throw in a Moleskine notebook if you feed the chickens and tortoise :-)

Pippa Goodhart said...

Yes, the 'gift' of good communication of what's happening to our books would be most welcome.

Chitra Soundar said...

Thanks Anne and Pippa. There were so many people who just wanted a proactive publisher who actually just did basic publicity even if no paid marketing.

Mystica said...

I enjoyed the post. As just a reader I never thought of the travails facing writers.

catdownunder said...

I might need to take you up on that one day Anne - if there is room to park my trike? Seriously, having access to information is an absolute essential!