Mon 28 September 2020
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Every writer warrants a penny for their thoughts
Whether their work is read in print or as an ebook, authors have the right to be financially rewarded

Robert McCrum writes:

Everyone knows that literary festivals are big business. Hay turns over £9m-£10m; Edinburgh approaches £2m; Cheltenham approximately £1.49m and, my favourite, Bath, £1.3m. But – and here's the catch – this quasi-literary bonanza relies on the goodwill of the authors who, in exchange for vital publicity, appear for nothing, as in "free" or "gratis". Well, not quite. At Hay, the author gets half a case of Spanish fizz and a red rose. It's hardly a living wage.

"No man but a blockhead," declared Samuel Johnson in one of his most celebrated obiter dicta, "ever wrote, except for money." It's taken some time, but austerity has finally galvanised the literary community to review its terms and conditions of employment. Some literary agents have begun selling their clients' lectures and appearances. I also hear that a number of prominent metropolitan writers are investigating the possibility of launching a new literary festival in which, if the audience is paying West End prices, the writers would get an Equity minimum.

For the full article

Guardian Online