The post on the practicalities of extracting money from the people you work for is a-brewing, but while you’re waiting for it, here are a few more thoughts on the work of being a writer.
If you do (expect to) get paid, at least do your client / employer the courtesy of treating it like a job. If you don’t want to be a hobbyist, don’t act like one. If you turn up pissed, late or are otherwise flaky you’re stealing from the person who has paid you and you’re making the rest of us look bad.
While it is true that an array of shocking behaviour is often tolerated and maybe even expected from ‘creative’ people, event organisers do chat to each other. I know, because I used to be one. And the idea that making things up gives you the right to be late, sullen, lecherous or otherwise rude really gnarls my chizzle.
I refer you back to Nicola Morgan’s post about Author Events. It’s true that once you start getting out there talking and reading and signing, many events will leave a lot to be desired. I travelled (unpaid) to do an event at a library which will remain nameless (not one belonging to the service I used to work for) to find there were no books for sale, my name had been spelled wrong on all the publicity, I wasn’t offered so much as a glass of water during the two hours I was there and at the end of the event was sneered at (we all earn as much as Dan Brown…) when I insisted on being reimbursed for my travel expenses. And during the break the organisers badmouthed the last writer who’d done an event for them…*
Nicola’s advice to organisers is spot on, but my advice to the writer on the receiving end of shoddy treatment is to be gracious about it. You can be polite and professional while insisting on a fee and a decent lunch break. You can be respectful without being a doormat. You don’t need to go back if it was that awful (in fact, it would be better if you didn’t and there are polite and direct ways of letting the organiser know why you won’t accept any future invitations), but a bit of courtesy on the part of the writer goes a long way.
Many festival organisers and event administrators seem consistently surprised by the fact that I am punctual, send thank you notes, reply to my emails or put my out of office on, let them know in advance that I am nearly phone-phobic but pick up my email regularly and do my very best to remember their names. I am fanatical about deadlines and submission guidelines. And I am absolutely not meaning to sound smug. I have only come to this conclusion by making mistakes and noticing what happens when I do. I have a plethora of failings – and the I’m terrified so I’ll have a little drink…oops! trap is one I’ve fallen into more times than I should have.
But still. To be praised by people who are paying me for what seems to me to be a basic level of professionalism and politeness makes me wonder how bad some of the other writers are. Tip in miniature: don’t be one of those writers.
* see the title of this blog. Details have been pushed into fiction to protect the guilty and prevent them from recognising themselves. Because being polite is important to me.