Should I be paid? by Georgie Donaghey

I have followed recent Facebook comments regarding the cancellation of a Sydney Book event. Sadly the organisers faced an uphill battle not only in selling tickets but also securing stall holders. Did the fact it moved from the Sydney Showground at Homebush to Rosehill Racecourse make a difference? Comments would indicate it did have an impact. There was a variety of other concerns; such as the cost of attending, especially those having to travel from interstate to attend. Some unfortunately, were already in transit when the organisers announced its cancellation only a couple of days before the festival date.

One of the main concerns which appeared to be raised by several, was advertising of the event. Many felt previous events had been poorly advertised and the organisers had appeared not to have learned from past festivals.

Sadly, the organisers have been chastised. Is it justified? Perhaps, as I am of the belief that the show must go on. Don't get me wrong, organising an event of this size is a monumental task, hence why we see conferences like SCBWI Sydney held every two years. The planning is bloody hard work! I know, I've done it.

During my time as President of the CBCA Sutherland Shire branch, we organised a festival for children. We had many well-known authors and illustrators joining us to chat and workshop with the kids. Although our committee had extensively promoted the event, we were only able to sell a handle of tickets. We put it down to the fact the Sutherland Shire is a heavily populated sporting community and not traditionally supporters of the Arts. We refunded the ticket holders, but continued with the festival and instead went door to door giving away tickets. We had already committed to the venue, the presenters and the public, the ones who were interested in attending. The festival ran at a loss.

In the end, it was a great day and having smaller groups in the various workshops meant the kids could get up close and personal with the presenters. Would I organise another one again? Not sure. Help organise one? Perhaps.

One comment I did find particularly hysterical in the Facebook chat; was a comment that took aim at the guest speakers and how they should donate their time to such events and not expect to be paid. This person, a lawyer by profession, stated they generously gifted their speaking fees at their industry related events and authors should be no different.

One thing everyone from this industry knows is there is very little money in what we do and that we write for the love of it, not the money. You can count the number of full-time Australian children's Authors on one hand. I'm not sure what lawyers are making these days, but I'm sure it's a bit more than authors are making. Sadly, this is not an isolated comment.

I don't know many professions that waive their fees so why should we? Why do people continually request we donate our time to speak, run workshops or school visits? I have never sought the services of a professional such as a lawyer, doctor, etc and expected they would donate their time.

If you are an author or illustrator and are asked to speak, present, sit on a panel or conduct a workshop, make sure you advise your fees up front. Don't feel guilty about it and don't feel pressured into donating your time, especially if travel and accommodation costs are involved.

These opportunities are an excellent way to get your name out there and polish your speaking and presentation skills, but don't count on selling enough books at these events to recover your presentation and/or travel expenses. Ensure you invoice and get paid!

It is important to support festivals and writing events to ensure they do not become extinct but at the same time getting paid should never be a question.

For more information about rates visit the Australian Society of Authors. 

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Thursday, 15 April 2021

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