A continued strained relationship exists between some literary festivals and their participating authors. Some festivals claim to be unable to pay their authors despite receiving sponsorship and paying the big bucks for well-known, celebrity names. Authors are taking a stand against this and we’re with them.
Scotland is said to ‘set the best example‘ in its book festivals. Festivals such as Edinburgh International Book Festival, Bloody Scotland, Wigtown, to name a few, all pay authors and cover expenses. We don’t believe that because we’re a virtual festival we are an exception to this rule. We’re asking for authors’ time away from their work to take part in events be them just on Twitter or Facebook or in person, in the Saltire Society office, live streamed to the rest of the world.
Our experience tells us that running an online event can require minimum to no monetary input and our natural instinct was to forego the majority of the budget that would have been for the actual running of the festival, the tech and marketing, and turn it to the authors taking part. Many authors agreed to participate prior to knowing there was a fee, they were happy to take part in a celebration of literature. Luckily for us, the Saltire Society, who are supporting the festival, were more than happy for us to spread the budget across more participants.
However, online should remain a place where anyone can put on events like ours and we don’t want to set a precedent that every Twitter chat should be paid, or every Q&A, as that could remove inclusivity. Most don’t have the money to do this and we’re paying because, fortunately, we can.
We hope more than anything that this highlights two things. One, author payment shouldn’t be a debate if there’s money in the pot. It’s a no-brainer. Two, we hope this encourages others to host online events with or without funds, as they’re great community builders, and potentially excellent experiences without having to pay a penny to take part or leave the house.
If you’re in the position to either put lots of money into the tech side of virtual events, or to the authors, choose the authors every time. Social media exposure can thrive on effort over money, which is kind of the point of it being inclusive. Challenge yourself to do it yourself as much as you can. It takes time but it’s possible. We’re challenging ourselves to host it on our own, without a massive marketing spend or tech upgrades, and that’s why we’re putting almost all of our budget to the authors.