|Book Fair at the Carrick Lodge Hotel,|
organised by the ever excellent Ayr Writers.
I'm aware that I'm lucky and that many writers just starting out would be glad of the opportunity. But as a freelance writer married to a freelance artist, I've been trying to balance event payment with promotional value for years now. This has also been something that the Society of Authors has been tackling on behalf of all its members, although it has to be said that Scottish book festivals are extremely good at paying their writers.
So here are some general thoughts, ending with one plea in particular.
The vast majority of writers do not earn large sums of money from their writing.
Book events of all kinds are excellent promotional tools. We build our readership one satisfied reader at a time, hoping that they will tell somebody else if they've enjoyed a book.
Book events are, on the whole, extremely enjoyable.
Book events are also hard work!
The truth is that most writers are happy to do a limited number of free events in any one year, especially local events, so there's no harm in asking. Personally speaking, I'll do bookshop events when I can, especially with a new book, and I'll also do a number of freebies for local book groups, or even local non commercial organisations such as the WRI (although in my experience they are scrupulous in paying travel expenses and offering hospitality.) I'll also happily do some book events where - for example - travel and accommodation are paid by a proactive and enthusiastic host. There are no hard and fast rules. But out of sheer practicality the paid events and the actual writing will have to take precedence. If you take a look at the News and Events Page on my website, you'll find more details.
Many groups in Scotland can and do apply for writer funding under the Scottish Book Trust's excellent Live Literature Scotland scheme, and that's good for all concerned. The host organisation is funded, the writer is funded, and everyone's happy.
But when funding of various kinds is applied for and obtained or when it's offered by a festival, some starry writers (there are a few!) or perhaps even writers who have another and more lucrative profession, will waive their fees.
Which is very nice of them, but I wish they wouldn't.
The problem is that the cash may actually be ring fenced, so can't be used for anything else. But even more of a problem is that it sets a precedent, while most of us - however much we would like to be able to do the same - simply can't afford to do too many free events.
So my plea to the handful of rich writers out there is - please, for the sake of the rest of us, accept what's offered, and then if you really don't need or want the money, donate it to whatever worthy cause you choose - your local school library or one of a number of excellent book charities that help children all over the world to obtain books. Many of us would love to be able to do the same. One day, some of us will be able to.