Saturday, July 20, 2013

Double dip of desirability...

Earlier this year I outlined the financial realities of author visits. It is not always easy to ask for a fee but I believe being paid a fee is fair when you are asked to present to any kind of audience. Author/illustrator Oisin McGann extends the argument in his blog here. It is indeed incomprehensible that folk who draw a salary for their involvement in the publication /sale /promotion and/or celebration of books/reading and/or writing, feel the author should appear/write for free.This does not create, or perpetuate a culture of valuing authors. In fact it perpetuates the opposite view.

This is not about how much money authors make, this is about being asked to do work for nothing. I am not a volunteer writer - this is my career and I spend a lot of time and effort upskilling, refining and preparing so I can deliver information that will be useful and interesting for the audience or participants. Many (paid) folk view the ability to promote as this incredibly valuable commodity for authors. It seems to me that the concept of 'promotion' has taken on this mythical, magical quality as if it always translates directly into significant sums of money. Sadly this is not as true as we would like it to be. And promotion when you are an author of children's books presents some unique challenges when you consider that the majority of my audiences (children from kindergarten to intermediate ages) have very little purchasing power.

I often eye up writing residencies and fellowships with considerable longing: the double dip of desirability of dedicated time to write and often a stipend to value and support you as an author. What's not to love? Well, maybe just the fact that we don't seem to have a lot of residencies and fellowships available to children's writers. If you look at the total number available in New Zealand the majority are geared towards writers of adult material and if they are open to all writers, most of the time they go to those involved in adult writing (the Beatson, The Buddle-Findlay, Berlin, Menton, the Burns Fellowship, University of Waikato, Michael King Fellowship etc...). That's my impression anyway and I welcome your views, opposing or supporting, in the comments. There is the very cool University of Otago Children's Writer in Residence (long may it continue) but if children's writers have to compete with adult writers for the same programmes, for whatever reasons, good or bad, adult writing tends to win out more often than not. Competing doesn't seem like the best idea. I think there is a gap here. I vote we get another dedicated children's writers residency or fellowship. What do you think?

1 comment:

Sue Copsey said...

Absolutely, Melinda. Children's writing in NZ needs a real boost I think, for both fiction and non-fiction. Reading for pleasure seems to be falling by the wayside for older kids :( and we need to provide a wider choice of locally produced quality books to get them back into it. That can only happen if somehow the exodus shrinkage of NZ publishers is replaced by something else. Self-publishing could help, but it still needs to be funded to ensure it is of good enough quality to compete with international books, and that it can be marketed. Perhaps funding children's authors through grants, with a guarantee of publication at the end of projects, would be a start?