Iniquitous is a good word. I use it only when I believe something is very wrong, very unfair and, at the same time, reeks of dishonesty.
So while I’m sorry to hear Philip Pullman has resigned as patron of the Oxford Literary Festival, I applaud his defence of authors being paid for their time and work. I applaud his suggestion that the OLF, which would not exist without authors, should pay them to speak at their festivals. And I applaud the Society of Authors, of whom Pullman is the president, for campaigning for authors to receive fair payment for speaking at literary festivals.
“Expecting authors to work (because it is work) for nothing is iniquitous,” Pullman says. “It always has been, and I’ve had enough of it.”
Yes, authors get a bit of “publicity”, yes, it’s good for “exposure” and, if they’re lucky, they might sell some books and make a few pounds – though the publisher will make more. But by now everyone knows professional writers and authors are becoming an endangered species because of the many predators out there: from the seemingly benign publishing houses, who slash advances and royalties to protect their own profits, to Amazon (you know why), to every other parasite determined to exploit the creative industry and get something for nothing.
There will always be those ignorant people who bleat that books are overpriced anyway, so why should authors get any more. What do they care that profits go mainly to publishing houses or that most working authors are lucky if they earn £11,000 a year?
It’s a pity Pullman has resigned over this, but I agree wholeheartedly with him. If we value writers, artists, musicians – all creatives – then we must be prepared to pay them for their time and work. There are many other book festivals that do pay their authors to speak – and manage to keep ticket prices reasonable – just as they pay their caterers, electricity companies or directors (though Sally Dunsmore and her team of mainly volunteers put the OLF together without pay, if the Oxford Mail’s report is accurate).
Even so, expecting authors to work for nothing is iniquitous. Try telling the caterer or the landlord the exposure will be good for them, and that they’d better have a nice big private income to fall back on when they offer their services, because you ain’t paying for them. Yeah. That’ll work.
Check out this humorous take on the subject at u-tube.
Author of Treasure This