More Financial Truth and WFMAD Day 19

Yesterday post about the financial realities of writing provoked a lot of comment. Has SCBWI ever done a workshop about this? It’s the kind of practical nuts-and-bolts stuff people should know, IMHO.

In response to the post, a Constant Reader on MySpace posed this question: When you go to conferences- like the ALA and such- do you pay your own way and use that as business expenses come tax-time or does your publisher/etc ever pay for it (like if you were the one that won the Newbery that year)? Do groups ever pay you to come, like if you are speaking at an event?”

These days (I’ve been writing for 16 years and have published 6 picture books, 6 novels, and a 12-book series) the publishers pay my way to big conferences such as American Library Association, International Reading Association, and the National Council of Teachers of English. But not every year. They pick and choose from their authors depended on if that person has a new book out, and the distance (= cost!) of getting said author to the event.

We are not paid for our time or for presenting at these big events. On my recent ALA trip, I was gone from home for five days. Two of those days were so jam-packed with book-and-librarian stuff I was only able to sneak in an hour of work. The other days I was able to work on the new book a fair amount. (That’s why I didn’t go play at Disneyland.) I have gotten much better at working on planes and in airports, too.

If you like speaking in public and are good at it, you can ask to present at state and regional conferences of librarians and teachers, and, of course, you can visit schools. If you are just starting out, you’ll probably have to pay your own expenses, and they won’t pay you a speaking fee. If you’re a good speaker and your reputation grows, you’ll gradually be offered an honorarium, and sometimes they’ll pay your expenses. Legitimate business expenses associated with this kind of travel are tax-deductible, but please, please consult with a tax professional about this.

In addition to conferences, I used to spend 60 – 100 days a year visiting schools. That’s how I paid my bills. It was fun and I loved it, but it wicked ate into writing time. (I’m on a hiatus from school visits right now – I promised my publishers I’d focus on writing for a while.) I always arranged my own travel, but a lot of authors rely on people like Catherine Balkin to set up their appearances and coordinate travel details.

What other facts of the writing life do you want to know?

WFMAD Day 19!

Today’s goal: Write for 15 minutes. Try to avoid melting.

Today’s mindset: humid

Today’s prompt: If you’re going to do this prompt, don’t scroll down to Part Two until you’ve completed Part One.

1. Write a list of five objects between the size of a hardback book and a toaster oven. Describe each item in glorious, precise detail.

scroll down for Part Two…

keep scrolling….

almost there…..

2. Imagine you’re on a vacation on a remote island; wo weeks and no electricity. You do have ample food and clean water, and a safe shelter, and you are fairly comfortable, but there are no stores around. You open your suitcase and instead of the clothes you packed, you find your 5 objects sitting there.

Write about what you’re going to do with them.


9 Replies to “More Financial Truth and WFMAD Day 19”

  1. Interesting prompt. I think I’ll save it for a rainy day. 🙂 Oh wait, it’s raining today…too bad I already got in my fifteen minutes. Guess I’ll have to try to do another fifteen minutes later. 🙂

    I had such a fabulous working day yesterday! I got in a full day, then went right back to it after the kids went to bed. I’m almost finished!! Woohoo!!

  2. I’ve always been paid when I’ve spoken at our local library conference–a token amount, but something. (But our local reading association not only doesn’t pay, but charges speakers a registration fee. And our new book festival has decided they don’t need to pay anyone but our headliners, which is a matter of some concern among us locals.)

    To me, because the honorariums for these sorts of things are low, it’s less a matter of the money itself than of whether they value their speakers and, more, how organized they are–conferences and events that don’t pay at all have tended, in my experience, to be less well attended and less well organized than those that do. When my time is valued, more care seems to go into all the other aspects of the event, too.

    This seems to be true for school visits, too–the paid events have been a better investment of time, even ignoring the actual pay, than the unpaid ones.

    (Does ALA really not pay their speakers? Speaking there, of course, would be a decent investment of time regardless, and the less-organized rule wouldn’t apply there!)

  3. Hi Laurie – I’m doing a week-long blog series on Printz winner/honor winners for the Class of 2k8 blog the first week of Aug. I’m doing mini-interviews, because I know how busy you folks are. So far I have Meg Rosoff, Carolyn Mackler, Ellen Wittlinger, and A.M. Jenkins. I need one more – would you be willing? It’s just four easy questions. We’ll post your bio too, which would be a good way to plug CHAINS (which I can’t WAIT to read, btw).

    If you’d be willing to spend one of your 15-minute writing sessions answering questions – please e-mail me at alwayslisa at gmail dot com and I’ll send you the 4 questions. 🙂


  4. I’ve decided to do your prompt…

    I’ve got out of the swing of working every day with doing stuff for others, and am having a problem with deciding which way to throw my attention– a bit frittered. You are one of the most focussed and organized writers (like Cindy Lord), so I’ll take a page from your book, and perhaps end up brave and dedicated, like the two of you!

    Nancy Werlin gave a wonderful professional level seminar on this very topic. I’d heard some grumblings from some attendees that it was so negative and harsh. It was what I needed to hear though. It always comes back to the same few things, doesn’t it. Do something uniquely you, nose to the grindstone, learn your craft AND business. And it’s always about the work.

  5. I’m a big fan of this topic, and the idea of putting more business / financial / life skills training for writers and other artists out there.

    I wanted to add that depending on where a writer lives, it may be possible to apply for grants to cover the cost of educational opportunities such as conferences, or travel expenses for readings and speaking engagements. It literally pays to have a careful look at the programmes of your local, provincial/state, federal and private cultural funding bodies and arts associations to see if they have something that can help you.

    Jill Murray

  6. Laurie- A writing question

    Have you ever spent time (be it weeks, or months) on a story proposal to the publisher and they (for whatever reason) turned it down?

    If so, how did you feel about it having put all that time and effort into it and then have it get slapped down?

    Or….do you suggest ideas that may interest you and submit it to them first so that you don’t waste any time on it?

  7. The thing that surprised me most about being an author was the public speaking. I love it, but had no idea that was part of the job. I used to think all an author did was write books.

  8. the glam writing life

    Your financial realities posts are making me grateful once again to realize that if I’m widowed, I could survive as a full-time writer without going on the dole by moving to a trailer park in Oklahoma (nothing personal, Okies, just coveting your low cost of living).

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