get paid for talking to a group, doing a school visit, reading their work at an event or some similar activity?
Nicola Morgan (yes, the Crabbit Old Bat again) got crabbit with me when I left a little message on one of her Facebook posts. I pointed out that many Australian authors are unlikely to get the sort of sums that were being quoted in replies to her post. She directed me to the Australian Society Authors website where there is a list of Public Appearance Rates.
Now, in all fairness to Nicola, she knows Australian authors who do get those sort of rates. They know they can charge for appearances. They have the confidence to charge for them. People also expect to pay these people to come and talk.
But I suggest that the situation is very different for many other writers. I was with a group of writers recently and this was actually under discussion. (We were there to discuss another charity issue so it was relevant.) There were five of them in the group. Now yes, I know that is not a large sample but they all know other writers as well and they were aware of what their fellow wordsmiths were or were not being paid.
All of them had done local events for nothing. They see it as part of the process of getting published. Usually it is an event for the local independent bookshop. In return the bookshop gives the writer some publicity and stocks the writer's book in a prominent position and encourage people to buy it. Sometimes the writer will do an event at the local library as well. Again it is expected that they will, as a local author, do it for nothing unless they are already a "name", an author whose name is sufficiently well known that people will say, "Josephine Bloggs, the author?" Like the bookshop, the library will bear the cost of running the event but a local and not well known author is unlikely to be paid.
School events are even more difficult. There is the issue of when you can do it. All the writers who were at the meeting work full time. To do a school visit would mean taking time away from work. It rarely happens. One builds up "flexi-time" and does the occasional event. He does not get paid for the appearance (his work does not allow it) but he does ask for expenses at the same rate as he would for his work. Another had taken the occasional half day of leave. Her boss likes the idea of having a writer on the staff and is prepared to be flexible about time off (but not, of course, to pay her while she is absent.) She has been paid but the most has been one hundred dollars.
The others had arranged to take annual leave during Writers' Week (which their employers were variously interested in granting) and they had done their networking and school visits during that time.
Payment varied but it was never nearly as high as the ASA suggests it should be. They only knew of two authors who were able to charge those sort of sums.
I may be wrong but I suspect that the ASA guidelines are rarely adhered to and that most lesser known authors would be laughed at if they asked for that sort of appearance money. It seems it is a choice between "well if you don't want the publicity" and "obviously you aren't interested in your readers".
Of course it should not be like that. Authors should be paid more for their writing. They should be paid more for talking about their writing. They should be out talking too, especially in schools.
Bur what about the rates? Say an author is like a casual lecturer at university. The last time I delivered a lecture at a local university the rate of pay for a "basic" lecture was about $165. The rate for a "specialised" lecture was $278. Repeat lectures and you will get $111. Tutoring pays between $80 and $120 per contact hour. You don't get travel expenses.
If authors follow the ASA guidelines then they will ask for more than a casual university lecturer. Yes of course an author is worth it and, given the usually abysmal payment for their books, they should be able to get more.
The reality though is that they won't. It doesn't matter what the ASA guidelines are. Very few authors could ask for that and hope to get it.
So, the answer to the other question? If I was in the fortunate position of having a book published would I charge my local independent bookshop? That's a difficult one. I am friendly with the owner. I am well aware that local bookshops are on a knife edge. Local author events are one of the things that keep people coming to the shop. I know I should charge but I don't know if I could.