Festivals Must Pay Writers - WordCon 2016

WordCon 2016: A Words Ireland conference about festivals and author care

words ireland
words ireland

 Yesterday I attended a conference in the National Library all about book festivals and how festival organisers and programmers can support writers.

Some interesting thoughts and statistics came out of the day. These are some of the most important ones:

1/ Writers must to be able to communicate with an audience to be successful at a festival. (Patrick Cotter, Munster Literature Festival)

For my blog on pitching to book festivals, what festivals are looking for and how to improve your events see here

2/ All writers, artists and moderators MUST be paid a fee

‘Writers are professionals and should be paid a professional fee.’ Bert Wright from Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival (Dun Laoghaire)

ILFD (Irish Literature Festival Dublin) pays a min fee to writers of e300

Joanne Harris, one of the speakers at WordCon
Joanne Harris, one of the speakers at WordCon

Listowel Writers' Week pays a similar fee

Dublin Book Festival (which focuses on Irish writers) pays a min of e100

Mountains to Sea min is e150

Munster Literature Centre min is e250

At the event it was generally agreed that e300 was a fee for festivals to aspire to, although for panel events and smaller festivals this may not be possible.

3/ If a festival cannot afford to pay the writers, it should not go ahead (Bert Wright again)

All agreed with this.

4/ The average earning of a writer in the UK is £11k

Only 10% of writers make a full time living from writing and writing associated work (events etc).

5/ Writers should NOT have to provide and sell their own books at festivals – it is up to the book festival to arrange this. Argosy Wholesale can help provide books. Or ask Poetry Ireland or Children’s Books Ireland for advice.

6/ A good chair or moderator is vital to a successful panel event. Programmers should be inventive when pairing up artists. Joanne Harris suggested pairing up interesting writers – herself, Neil Gaiman and Philip Pullman talking about fairy tales would be her dream panel!

Sarah Bannan from the Arts Council spoke about using partnerships and mixing up the different art forms – writers and musicians for eg.

7/ When emailing a writer about an event be clear about the fee, the date and what you’d like them to do – Joanne Harris said.

You can email writers directly or use social media to contact them.

8/ ‘There should be zero tolerance for low or no fees,’ said Sarah Bannan from the Arts Council. ‘We need a change in attitude.’

9/ The Irish government needs to support the arts – book festivals need public funding.

10/ Writers do not make money from book sales at festivals.

Joanne Harris explained that to break event at a festival she would have to sell 100 hardback books at £10 per book. 1 in 10 of an audience might buy a book – which means she’d need a theatre of 1,000 people just to break even.

Well done to Words Ireland for arranging a most interesting and stimulating day. There will be another in the autumn. They will post a document about the conference on their website in a few months’ time they promised.

From the start of this year I have turned down any request that does not pay a fee. If I do not charge for my experience and talent what chance does a young or new writer have of getting paid for their work?

I would encourage you all to do the same. Ask for a fair fee. Value your work, writers!

Yours in books,

Sarah XXX