It bears remembering that you have a duty and an obligation to pay professional rates and expenses for professional appearances.
The “death by exposure” climate has always bothered me. I remember one bookstore which actually demanded, after I read for them, that I return my meagre Canada Council reading fee back to them.
And while we’re on the topic, Canada Council rates are not what you should be paying, folks. Multiply it.
You wouldn’t ask a dentist, a lawyer, an accountant to work for free. If you have paid anyone–and that includes your salary–but you can’t pay us a living wage, then you need to shut your event down.
Think of what goes in to a shared reading. The writing itself may have taken years, or months, or weeks. Certainly it will take anywhere from an hour to several hours to decide what to read, to time it properly, to practice its delivery, to figure out performance clothing etc. With travel, the event itself will take probably five or six hours for the writer; you may think you should only pay for the writer’s twenty minutes on stage, but that writer, courtesy demands, must appear early and stay through the evening through the other readers. Additionally, that writer may also have to pay for a babysitter, gas, parking, and/or a meal.