There’s been a kerfuffle recently over writers not getting paid for attending literary festivals. It caused Philip Pullman to resign as a patron of the Oxford Literary Festival.
This article by Nick Cohen ponders the problem of why we’re treated like doormats. It’s worth a read, as it encapsulates the something-for-nothing attitude that many book world executives have to their authors, not to mention readers who expect books for free.
Do click on the link to the video of Harlan Ellison’s foul-mouthed rant about being expected to work for free by a major film studio—he tells it like it is, and he made me smile.
I’ve wondered about this too, as today people expect authors to give their services away for free by attending festivals to read from their work and answer questions. It’s almost as if they think we’re all monied dilettantes who dabble in creating stories for our own amusement.
As we all know, not everyone makes millions from their writing, even though we all work hard at it. I estimated recently that since the summer of 2013, when I returned to creative writing, I’ve devoted 10,000 hours to researching, writing and editing my stories. In that time, I’ve earned about £40 from my efforts. I’m not going to attempt to work out what that makes my hourly rate of pay!
Storytelling has been around for as long as humans could talk to one another. In the Middle Ages, troubadours or minstrels told stories to the public for payment, reciting traditional tales as well as those of their own making. Booksellers once took their wares on the road, flogging them from carts and panniers on pack animals. It’s as if modern day authors are expected to continue an age-old tradition, by being peddlers of their own literature, scraping a living from pennies.
(that’s me in the middle, that is….)