“It’s a token payment, obviously.”
“We’re a charity, so can’t offer a fee.”
“We’re offering exposure instead of expenses.”
“To speak at the festival, you’ll have to buy a full-price pass.”
Philip Pullman set off a mushroom cloud by resigning as patron of the Oxford LitFest because they do not pay authors.
The principle is very simple: a festival pays the people who supply the marquees, it pays the printers who print the brochure, it pays the rent for the lecture halls and other places, it pays the people who run the administration and the publicity, it pays for the electricity it uses, it pays for the drinks and dinners it lays on: why is it that the authors, the very people at the centre of the whole thing, the only reason customers come along and buy their tickets in the first place, are the only ones who are expected to work for nothing?
This led to a call for a boycott by author Amanda Craig in an open letter to The Bookseller.
For too long, authors have been persuaded to give our services to the public for free – even though the public is paying in good faith to see us. We are the only people in festivals who are not paid, and yet without us the festivals could not exist. Writing is a vocation but it is also a profession, and it is time we all stiffened our spines, dug in our heels and said No.
This was not the first criticism of literary festivals and the treatment of writers in general – Nicola Solomon of The Society of Authors sounded the alarm last November and again in January.
We should ensure that authors are paid properly for appearances.
Making appearances involves preparation and travelling time and authors earn their living as freelancers, so it is only fair that time is paid for.
I stand up and applaud.
As a writer, speaker and panellist, of course. But also as a workshop and conference organiser.
The Woolf pays people for their time and experience (not just the event, but the travelling and preparation, plus expenses). It’s only fair. Speakers are the main reason people attend the event and should be remunerated. In the early days, we gave our time for free and even shelled out for any shortfall, but the speakers were always, always, paid.
Philip Pullman, Nicola Solomon and Amanda Craig deserve applause and support for exhorting all of us who benefit from writers.
We need to make a New Year’s Resolution:
So here it is.
Ideas underpin publishing houses, television series, literary festivals, bookshops, bedtime stories, erotica on e-readers, audio-absorption for commuters, escapism to another world or examination of this one.
Ideas provide private introspection and collective water cooler conversations; stories, tales, narratives we need to make sense of life.
Ideas would be impossible without the imagination of the artist.
Ideas are worth paying for.
Treasure the storytellers.
Credit the creators.