Festivals and Cash!

It surely can’t have been such a long time since my last blog? I had thought I’d be writing up notes much more regularly than once in every eight weeks!

Apologies for the long break, but there have been good reasons. Lots of work with the Royal Literary Fund helping students at Exeter university, finishing a tough edit, getting the ideas together for the next book, editing two others, preparing myself for another collaborative story (this time with the Detection Club), and meanwhile trying to cope with Christmas.

However, there is one project that has been taking up even more of my time … the AsparaWriting Festival.

Asparawriting booklet cover

Festivals can be huge fun. For authors nowadays, it’s hard not to want to get out and about and stand up on the hind legs to share your enthusiasms with audiences. I love it. Seeing people who haven’t heard you talk before, giving them an idea about writing, what it’s like to be an author, how I research and write – well, it all gets me out of the house, which is worthwhile in its own right!

However, writing, as readers of this blog will already know, is a precarious career.

The money is bad. Since retailers demand ever larger discounts, and because an author’s income generally is dependent on the discounts demanded (if Amazon want an 80% discount, the author’s income reduces by 80%), we are all having to consider other means of bringing in cash.

In the past, a good way to mix business and pleasure used to involve visiting libraries and giving talks. For a small fee plus expenses, authors could generate some much-needed cash. Sadly, the cuts in local government mean that this option is pretty much dead. I’ve recently been told I can’t give a talk for free, because the library won’t pay any travelling expenses. Thus, in order to provide a service to the library, I am expected to not only work for free, but to pay all my own expenses for the privilege. It isn’t the fault of the librarians. It’s the problem that local authorities are suffering from. With ever reducing budgets, they have to make savings where they can.

However, there are other ways to earn money. One is the marvellous idea which has become the Literary Festival.

How about this as a venue for author talks? Wonderful location and atmosphere.

How about this as a venue for author talks? Wonderful location and atmosphere.

 

These wonderful events have blossomed up and down the country. People flock to them. Fans and enthusiastic readers go to talk to their favourite authors. At Crime festivals people go to meet the criminal greats; at Romance festivals they meet the best romantic novelists; at Science Fiction festivals Trekkies meet Star Warriors and exchange dark forces; at Erotic festivals people go to share something, I daresay, but I am not going there!

I have participated in many festivals all over the world now, and it is often rather depressing. For instance, I really dislike being asked to pay to attend a festival to talk about my books. Yes, it does happen – several festivals think it is a good idea to treat the authors like fans, so that all are on an equal footing. Except most authors aren’t – they can’t afford to pay several hundred pounds to join in because, unlike most fans, authors don’t get a monthly salary. They are paid twice a year, hopefully, when royalties are due.

Still, the festivals of that type tend to be good organisations which are non-profit making. Which is nice. They are infinitely better than the large festivals which are most decidedly profit-making, and which still do not pay a reasonable fee to the author. For example, I have heard recently of an author who generated several thousand pounds for a festival and was paid, in return, with a few bottles of indifferent wine. I have myself talked at a festival where over 100 people paid £6.80 each to listen to me, and where I was paid one bottle of low-quality champagne and no expenses. Without the authors there would be no festival. In the Author magazine recently a case was mentioned of a comedian. The standard rate for comics is 70% of the take, apparently. That seems a rational way to reimburse the people who are generating the income for the festivals – but it isn’t how authors get paid.

Yes, I know. It’s always easy to whine and complain about such things. But moaning itself doesn’t achieve much, does it?

That is why I am helping to organise the AsparaWriting Festival.

It is a small affair, but it’s running over several weeks. Rather than bringing together a lot of people in one weekend, AsparaWriting will have a series of events over the period of the asparagus season. And, rather importantly, it’s a festival for those who are writers or who want to write. It’s for people who aspire.

Each week there will be an author giving workshops or masterclasses for a day, and then speaking in the evening too. Aspiring writers can bring their own work and have it critiqued by their favourite authors, then listen to an evening talk about how the author worked, what motivates them (usually money, to be honest!), and if they want to book a couple of evenings in the Evesham Hotel, they can share a meal with the author on the night before.

The wonderful Evesham Hotel

The wonderful Evesham Hotel

For me, it’s been delightful to be involved with a (non-profit-making) festival like this, because so many people are interested in learning how to write and how to be more involved in the publishing industry. However there is also the other angle, which is that it’s a festival that is committed to supporting authors, so all will have their expenses paid and a small fee too.

Which, I think, makes it a worthwhile festival to support. I hope fans and aspiring writers will think so too!

If you’re interested in the festival and learning more about it, you can follow @AsparaWriting on Twitter or “like” it at https://www.facebook.com/AsparaWriting. For regular updates, please look up http://www.AsparaWritingFestival.co.uk. All the sites are in place, although they are being developed still. The ordering and pricing pages aren’t up yet, but will be this week. Please be patient!

Perhaps one day all writing festivals will offer their speakers a reasonable sum in return for making the festivals profitable.

And now … back to the edit of my next Medieval Murderers story … Book ten!

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Comments
One Response to “Festivals and Cash!”
  1. Old Trooper says:

    What is really sad is the bad authors who make profit while the good authors suffer. There are too many pseudo-authors, i.e. those who may have some celebrity status and write trash and get purchased because of that so called celebrity status (being an idiot can give you celebrity status). I, and my wife, recently read a book out of curiosity. We suspected that it was bad but needed to prove it for ourselves. The book is Bill O’Reilly’s (with Martin Dugard) “Killing Jesus.” We could tell soon on that he and / or Dugard spent an ‘ardous 8 month’s of research’ to write the book. It is full of errors, omissions and unnecessary content. Yet, it is on the ‘best seller’ list. I know qualified historians who cringe at the mention of O’Reilly’s book. He’s managed to get over on not a few non-discerning readers.

    Like

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