It follows my recent blog post aimed at event organisers. (By the way, I've had great feedback on that behind the scenes, from agents who are also sick of seeing their authors poorly treated or unpaid. And, for your info, the agent does not take a commission on the author's fee!)
Crabbit’s Tips for Authors Doing Events
1. When you are invited to do an event, do not be afraid to ask about a fee. You are a professional writer and even if you’ve never done a talk before, you ought to be paid. You are an adult with bills to pay. Not asking for a fee also undermines other writers who need to be paid.
2. However, there are some circumstances in which it is reasonable not to be paid or not to be able to set your fee:
a. Around publication, we are expected to do a limited number of free events. However, all expenses should be paid.3. In advance, check the following with the organiser:
b. Festivals should pay every author the same, so you’ll need to decide whether you are happy with the fee, but you shouldn’t negotiate.
c. If you are happy to do an event for nothing because perhaps it’s for charity (but don't feel bludgeoned) and every other adult won’t be paid, or because it’s your kids’ school, or any other specific reason that feels good to you, properly good, not emotional blackmailly good, that’s fine.
d. If you genuinely feel that the benefit in other ways outweighs your loss of income, fine; but don’t be swayed by the organiser saying “It’ll be good for your profile.” Only you can decide that. Your increased profile from doing some paltry event with crap publicity and no booksales is likely to be as tiny as a tiny thing from Flea University.
e. Bookshop events are different: they are usually not charging the audience to attend, and usually book sales will not cover the extra staffing etc. HOWEVER, if the bookshop is charging for the event, they should pay us. The paying attendees will assume it.
a. Venue; audience size and make-up, precise length of talk. Say if you’d like any equipment, even something as simple as a table to put your notes on. Holding your notes in your hand is not nice - people can see you shake.4. Think ahead about food and drink. Be prepared for the fact that you may be dumped somewhere rural after your event and given no food or drink. Take food with you – you know what you need.
b. That they have your biography and will introduce you and round off the event, bringing questions to a close for you. Insist on both these - it makes an enormous difference.
c. Bookselling – who is organising this? Which books will be there and, crucially, will the audience know in advance about bookselling? (Particularly important for school events.)
d. Technical requirements – is someone going to be there to set up and deal with problems? What items are they expecting you to bring? Will your computer or software be compatible. Have a Plan B…
5. Make sure the room is set up in the way that suits you. For example, I like a table of around hip or waist height, so I can put my bits and pieces, books, glass of water etc and be able to reach them easily. Shift the furniture if necessary. It makes more difference than you think - having to peer at your notes or whatever is a pain and means you turn away from the audience.
6. Dress to feel good, but remember that you are more likely to feel too hot than too cold, and being too hot during a talk is horrible. And you may well sweat…
7. Loose trousers will disguise shakey-leg syndrome.
8. When you feel your mouth drying up, don’t battle on: drink. (Water...)
9. You will be nervous at first but as you learn how your body reacts, you’ll get better. Have some extra material to fill any sudden looming gaps, if you finish too early. Spare passages to read, for example. And plan which bits you could leave out if you were running out of time.
10. Your voice will be much better and stronger if you stand up. Breathe, smile, keep your head up, speak slowly and loudly.
11. If you plan to read a passage or two, make them fairly short; practise often and cut bits out that you feel you don’t need.
12. If you are speaking to kids or teenagers, and they are messing around, if glaring and pausing doesn’t work, ask the teacher to deal with the situation. You are not obliged to do it yourself. If it gets really bad, sit down and refuse to continue until order has been maintained. (I did this once - remarkably effective.) You can do the discipline bit yourself if you want to but, as I say, you shouldn’t have to, and it spoils the relationship with your audience.
13. Again re speaking to kids, be aware that if you read to them you lose control over the words and the audience, so avoid it if they are playing up.
14. Don’t try to make teenagers laugh unless you are a genuine comedian.
15. Everyone likes stories but many people don’t like being lectured to – so, rather than telling facts, tell stories.
16. Engage – ask them questions. It takes the pressure off you for a moment.
17. With kids, be prepared for these questions: How much do you earn? (Answer: nothing if you don’t buy my books.) What car do you drive? Where do you get your ideas? How long does it take to write a book? Who is your favourite author/book? Why did you want to become a writer? What famous authors do you know? Have you met Harry Potter?
18. Be ready the night before, with a checklist: notes, books, props, food and water, tickets, tech equipment, flyers and other promo material, CONTACT DETAILS FOR EMERGENCIES…
19. Follow up afterwards; take any nice quotes and use them on your website; ask for any pictures that might have been taken.
21. Enjoy it!
Do you have any points to add, those of you who have done events?
PS - I'm away a lot on business at the moment, so can't respond to your comments. Normal service will resume soon! Louise Kelly is blog-minding for me.