The Society of Authors (SoA) has asked literary festivals to reconsider how much they pay authors, following a survey that shows most only pay £150-£200 per appearance.
The society has released the initial findings from its ‘Festivals Survey’ after receiving replies from 17 of the 22 festivals it contacted - 12 of which pay all authors they engage as solo speakers or panel participants.
Most festival fees pay between £150 and £200, although some paid as much as £1,000 depending on the fame of the author or the distance they travelled to the event.
However, the SoA said festivals should pay rates that are equitable to what an author would earn as a freelance, and recommended Andrew Bibby’s reckoner, which compares freelance rates to annual salaries.
“Using that reckoner a fee of £100 equates to an annual salary of just £9,000 or £150 to an annual salary of £13,500," said the SoA, adding: “All festivals – especially those with commercial sponsors, and any festival where the public pays for tickets – should offer reasonable fees as a matter of course. Fees should take into account travel and preparation time as well as actual performance time. Although an event may only be an hour an author seldom loses less than a day when you take into account preparation and travel."
Most festivals pay expenses, although some do not pay authors with books to sell because they expect publishers to cover any expenses incurred, the society found.
It also claimed that Arts Council England (ACE) had agreed not to fund festivals that don’t remunerate authors. The Bookseller is awaiting confirmation of this from ACE.
The SoA is now writing to all the festivals that participated in the survey to discuss their terms for authors. They are also looking to talk to other festivals, which can contact the society via its website.
Last year, several authors told The Bookseller they should always be paid at festivals because they are “professional and deserve professional treatment”. Joanne Harris said festivals have in the past asked her to waive an appearance fee, whilst Linda Grant said authors often lose a day's work for little return.
Chipping Norton Literary Festival, which did not used to pay fees, has now offered to split its profits with authors in lieu of paying appearance fees.
Festivals that took part in the Society of Authors festivals survey are: Aye Write, Bath Literature Festival, Bath Children’s Literature Festival, Bloody Scotland, Books by the Beach/Scarborough, Borders Book Festival, Cambridge, Charleston, Cheltenham, Edinburgh, Harrogate, Hay, Henley, Ilkley Literature Festival, Jewish Book Week, Kew, Oxford, Sherbourne, South Bank, Stanza, Ways with Words, and Wigtown.