Ilkley Literature Festival and Author Fees

In recent months the issue of how literary festivals pay the authors, poets and speakers appearing at their events has been a subject of much debate and as we go into 2016 it seems a good moment to clarify our position.

We’ve said publicly for many years that one day there would be a sea change in the arrangements between publishers and literary festivals, arrangements which grew up historically and whose origins are pretty much lost in the mists of time. We already spend over £55,000 a year on author fees and this year we’ll be adding fees to authors on promotional book tours arranged through their publishers on top of the speakers we already pay.

It won’t be easy – but then when has working in the arts ever been a piece of cake?  We’re an Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation with a grant that’s fixed over three years. We fight hard every year to break even, not because we’re not careful with money, but because we take risks with new authors and writers visiting from other countries and because we are committed to extensive development work with young people, schools and community groups and to programming new and emerging poets and writers, particularly those who help make the Creative Case for Diversity. We try to keep our ticket prices reasonable with generous concessions so that the Festival is accessible to everyone and to pay our dedicated, hard working staff as appropriately as we can. Ours is a team of arts professionals and it shows in the high standards of event delivery and the support we offer writers. Finding more money for authors out on book tours will mean some of the other events in the programme will have to go and we’re taking a long hard look at what we’ll have to lose.

Often publishers ask if we can give their author a chance to appear at their first–ever Festival. We’re known for being supportive with nervous speakers and working hard to get them a good, friendly crowd and we’re extremely proud of the various authors we have been able to help on their way. We don’t want those opportunities to be lost, so we’re liaising with the Arts Council, the Society of Authors and our publishing colleagues to see how we can make sure hard pressed Festivals don’t have to abandon first time authors and anyone who won’t bring in a large audience. One of the questions we’d like to explore is whether the publishing house could be involved in helping to make an appropriate contribution to first time authors and others who won’t draw a big crowd when they’re out on a book tour.

So as 2016 kicks in we’ll be working hard to continue to deliver the Festival audiences and authors expect and liaising with all our partners to find the most sustainable way of being able to offer all authors a minimum fee without risking the future of the Festival.


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