Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Should Authors Charge For Book Reading Sessions?


This is a question that has always cropped up in many literary sessions I have been a part of.  I decided to write on it when a naive book lover friend of mind wrote to a very famous author to be a part of a book reading session for her book club, which by the way has one of the most eager and enthusiastic bunch of readers I have ever met. He charged an exorbitant amount which obviously they couldn't pay. So here is my analysis of the pro's and cons of this problem. 

There are two school of thoughts, yes and no as in all cases. If you look at the Indian scenario, the maximum lime-light, role-model space etc. is occupied by film industry, cricketers and after their quota is done rest is occupied by television industry. The last remaining quota is Authors, which is lesser compared to the above mentioned categories, but thanks to Chetan Bhagat et al., and the revolution that he has brought in Indian reading and publishing industry, now our youth summits have at least one lecture by an author. Yes it feels great that a nation like ours is taking up the habit of reading, a hobby that helps one mature a lot in thought and intellectually. We have also seen a lot of book clubs in city where if you happen to visit a cafe on a lazy Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning a group of people in a corner would be discussing Books! Awesome isn't it. The other great change is the penetration of social media. We have now gotten used to interacting directly with our icons. All of us book lovers tag our favorite authors, tweet to them, chat with them, etc. At many book reading sessions we have the author himself talking about his/her journey into writing the whole story. Its amazing to see aspiring writers, enthusiastic readers all bunched up to listen to the person they have loved reading, in some cases have even idolized them. Recently however there have been cases like authors charging to be a part of such reading sessions. The charges isn't a small amount but lakhs of rupees. The question remains "Should they charge just to be for an hour or so with their true readers?'

For a room full of intently attentive audience, many of whom are aspiring writers, many who burnt night lamps and drank shots of coffee to read your book, many who idolize you is it fair? Well I intended to not be biased so I put out the question on facebook and twitter.Though only a few debutant authors responded to it saying that authors shouldn't be charging, I was lucky to have some strong counter arguments with valid points. A facebook friend of mine shared his experience that once to such a session he organized for a well reputed author, people didn't turn up as it was free. Well that does reflect a "take it for granted" attitude of the audience and is unfair to the author. Therefore I believe that there should be passes that are charged at a nominal rate which would help cover author conveyance charges (if any). Also the author if he /she feels not to be taken for granted should charge nominally and not in lakhs as the author my friend contacted did. This is a book lovers advise. 

We live in a country where in most towns and even some cities there are no good libraries. People don't have that kind of money to buy books yet even then we are a nations whose youth is eager. This is time when things are changing and people wish to read. An author should be the catalyst that promotes reading instead of counting his/her bank balance. If the audience loved you, Is this the way you return that love? Imagine the change one can make by interacting even if one can inspire one more individual? Wouldn't that truly be called as "being a true Indian"?Isn't that the need of the hour?

I end this article with a question for authors "What could be more interesting for an author than an a fine evening in the company of readers all eager to listen to the real story behind the story they loved reading? "

Disclaimer: Since this is a very touchy topic let me remind everyone whose feelings might be hurt that as a citizen of the democratic nation of India, I have complete freedom of thought, speech and writing by law.

6 comments:

  1. quite thought provoking. :-) maybe the maturity would bring in more seriousness...

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  2. Interesting article. And well written!

    Ok, here's my take on this. As an author, if I charge for a reading, then the thousands of book lovers who pay to buy my book, should also be 'charging' me to read my book, since it's actually them who're doing me a favor by picking up the book. We write for the joy of writing, but get paid (royalty, advance whatever), but the reader who savours the story isn't getting paid, instead pays up.

    Authors shouldn't charge for reading sessions. I personally feel we owe it to the readers. That's the least we could do. I'd do a reading for free. Any day. I speak for myself though. It's against my conscience to charge for reading.

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    1. I really appreciate your views and honesty. Many authors saw my post only you commented and that too a selfless approach is your response. Well I am glad authors such as yourself exist. What I meant was even if they charge it should be an amount that is justified in paying his travel allowance and expenses of the event, and it should be an amount a reader can afford.

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    2. If the author is a well known/successful author, and if they really have the time and bandwidth to do the reading, then I don't think they should charge even for the travel. If he's attached to a publisher at that point, it's the publisher's job. Individually, unless the author is asked to speak or conduct a workshop where he actually offers his services and his skill, he still shouldn't charge.

      I'm sure there are other authors who think like me. We can't all be that vain! :) :)

      But you bring out an interesting point in today's trend, and if not taken seriously, a disturbing one. We're authors, we're not actors. We should remember that. :)

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