Thursday, September 22
Cha’Ching! Should Authors Charge for School Visits?
I've never charged for school visits. At first I thought nothing of it since I was a new author and had that “What? Charge? I’m a nobody, I’m just glad they want me to come talk to the kids!” notion. But fellow author friends said I ought to be charging something, because folks tend to value more what they pay for. Beside, I was out there working, and I deserved to be compensated for that effort.
It made sense (and still does), but that was right when the economy tanked and no one had any money. As a new author, getting books in the hands of readers was more important to me than the small fees I could earn.
Budgets are being cut all over, both at schools and in the author's own homes. More and more of the marketing expense is falling to author's shoulders. Fewer avenues of income are out there. What's an author to do these days?
Reasons Against Free School Visits
Not Charging Hurts Authors Everywhere
Like any product, giving it away makes people not want to pay for it. Look how papers have fallen since folks can get news online for free. The more authors do visits for free, the more likely it is no one will be willing to pay them to come out.
Authors Struggle Enough Already to be Paid Fairly
Let’s face it, unless you’re fortunate enough to get a decent advance, most books won’t earn their authors very much money. In the past, school visits were one way authors could supplement their incomes. The more freebies out there, the less authors are getting paid overall. Those who rely on that extra income to stay home and write might be forced to take day jobs, or stop writing altogether.
It Devalues Authors
Authors are a mysterious bunch, and most non-writers really don’t get how much work goes into a book. Free visits suggest that an author’s time and knowledge isn’t worth anything.
Reasons For Free School Visits
It’s Marketing That Usually Works
Authors spend a lot of time marketing their books and never see any results. With school visits, you spend X hours and can see X books sold. Figure out a good process, and you could sell a lot of books in one visit.
Schools Have No Money
Budgets are being cut everywhere. Many schools can’t afford to pay an author, even if they want to.
It’s Good for the Community
Being just a paid speaker makes you a person doing a job. But going on your own time and dime suggests you’re part of the community and willing to help support the local schools. Goodwill that can help you in unexpected ways down the road.
Middle of the Road Reasons for School Visits
There's Already Too Much on an Author’s Plate
With everything an author has to do these days to get their books out there, can they really afford to do visits without benefit to them? Is it better to skip the visits altogether and just write more books? Conversely, making X amount over a school year from fees might look good on paper, but what if that comes at a cost of less time to write?
Staying in Touch With Your Reader
If you never get out there and talk with your readers, are you missing out on something that can help your writing? Is it important to keep that connection, even at the cost of money or time?
I don’t know what the right answer is, if there even is one. I suspect it’ll be different for every author. I’m sure there are ways to compromise here, maybe with book sales. X books sold earns the school a discount or waves the fee. The students buy the books they were going to buy anyway, the author gets paid, and the school gets the visit for free or at a reduced and affordable rate.
It’s a tough call.
What do you think? Should authors charge for visits or not?