Fair play: can literary festivals pay their way?
Here’s an issue near and dear to my heart. With nearly everyone around the publishing industry earning at least a piddling wage, from the guy transporting the books to your shop to the guy looking after your plumbing to the editor, guess who still isn’t?
Writers toil on a hope that ten percent of the proceeds from sales of their books will pay their mortgage, feed their babies, and keep them in licorice. With books sometimes coming out as infrequently as once a decade, with a best seller in Canada selling only 5000 copies, you can do the math yourself.
It’s appalling that publishing systems are in place to look after everyone all along the chain except for the actual lynchpin of the entire operation.
Now here comes Alex Clark talking about the money for writers at literary festivals. “Pullman’s standpoint was unequivocal: “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, the very people at the centre of the whole thing, the only reason customers come along and buy their tickets in the first place, are the only ones who are expected to work for nothing?”