Festivals, teaching & appearances

People deserve to be paid for the work they do - so why are authors so often expected to work for free?

Writers, poets, illustrators and scriptwriters are all too often expected to provide their labour for free. All visits and appearances undertaken by authors should be properly remunerated, whether visiting a school, making an appearance at a festival, judging a competition or speaking as an expert in the media.

You can find a range of information in our Advice section to help you get the most out of visits and appearances, whether you are an author or an organiser.

A festival pays the people who supply the marquees, it pays the printers who print the brochure, it pays the rent for the lecture-halls and other places, it pays the people who run the administration and the publicity, it pays for the electricity it uses, it pays for the drinks and dinners it lays on: why is it that the authors … are the only ones who are expected to work for nothing?

Philip Pullman

What are we asking for?

We ask all organisations that book authors, poets and other contributors for events and appearances to regularly review the fees that they pay. Fees should take into account travel and preparation time as well as actual performance time. They should be based on the annual salary an author would expect to earn as a freelancer, and we recommend Andrew Bibby’s reckoner as a guide, which shows how daily rates equate with different salaries.

We are also concerned that some festivals ask for wide rights (e.g. podcasts) or attempt to apply exclusion zones, preventing an author from working within a certain distance of the festival for a specific period of time. This unreasonably exploits an author’s work on the one hand, then limits their future opportunities on the other.

What are we doing?

In 2015 we wrote to a cross-section of the many literary festivals in the UK asking whether they paid authors and other contributors for appearances. Of the 17 who replied, 12 paid all authors they engage to take part as solo speakers or members of a panel. The majority paid all authors with fees at that time ranging from £100 to £1000 plus expenses (mostly within the range of £150 to £200). We followed this up with a campaign for payment spearheaded by our President, Philip Pullman. As a result, more festivals have agreed to pay authors.

We continue to campaign to encourage all organisations to remunerate authors fairly, pay expenses and VAT, and treat authors appropriately in line with good practice.

What Can You Do?

  • Whether you are an author or an organiser, visit our Advice section for information on good practice.
  • We would love to hear from festivals and authors to broaden our knowledge of current practices – both positive and negative. Please email us to share your experiences.