Wimbledon BookFest is to start paying a fee of £150 each to all participating authors.
This will be the first year the 10-day book festival has paid authors for appearing. Previously it only paid chairs of events. The announcement follows a story in The Bookseller in which a number of authors, including Joanne Harris and Linda Grant, spoke about the need for payment for appearances.
Wimbledon BookFest director Fiona Razvi said: "Paying author fees is something that is already common in the children’s publishing sector and it’s something we have been talking about for some time here at Wimbledon. The piece in The Bookseller last week prompted a serious discussion with our trustees. Although it’s another cost we will need to absorb, it’s one that we think is important because we value the time and energy our authors give us – without them we wouldn’t have a festival."
She continued: “When we started the festival eight years ago we very much booked authors as part of their publicity tours. Audiences were delighted to meet authors and authors in return were delighted to get the opportunity to meet fans and develop their readership. Book sales were always the central focus for festival events and Wimbledon’s audience have always been great book buyers.
“However, much has changed in the publishing world since we started and publishers and writers have been expressing concern about ‘free appearances’ at events for some time. Whilst festivals still provide an invaluable platform for author promotion we believe that the author’s value should be recognised like any other paid artist.
“Wimbledon BookFest made a small surplus for the first time last year. We are not publicly funded and there is no way we could recoup costs through ticket sales alone. We rely on the support of businesses based in our locality for event sponsorship and to cover the overheads of the festival. There is a huge difference in scale for the larger festivals such as Hay, Cheltenham and Edinburgh but Wimbledon BookFest’s board of trustees feel it is only right that we recognise the value and worth of writers and authors.”
Razvi said most festivals struggled to cover costs, but it was “only fair that the authors’ time should be factored into financial models, especially with recent reports highlighting the shockingly low income most writers earn from their work”.