Ahhh, Science! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I became a scientist at the age of four when curiosity reared its head. It was the day my mother killed a chook. My father reckoned its head was still attached by invisible threads. Mum, … Continue reading Curiosity, dead chooks, science and the S.T.E.M. push
A week ago, my husband joined a small group of refugee advocates outside No-man’s Land and the barbed-wire fences at the Pinkenba Immigration Detention Transit Centre in Brisbane. They were trying to throw tennis balls over the fences – unsuccessfully.
Ross, being a resourceful physics man took his tennis racquet from the car and lobbed dozens of yellow balls over those high fences. Refugee children chased them, giving them to their parents who waved from behind the fence.
Written on each ball was the message … WE CARE! DON’T LOSE HOPE!
But last night, in the Australian Senate, the most fascist, inhumane politician we’ve ever had the misfortune to endure, MP Scott Morrison, forced through a law that not only takes away any chance of hope for these lost souls on the high-seas who seek a safe haven, he used refugee children as ransom.
“No other minister, not the prime minister, not the foreign minister, not the attorney-general, has the same unchecked control over the lives of other people,” writes Ben Doherty in The Guardian.
With the passage of the new law, the minister can push any asylum seeker boat back into the sea and leave it there. He can detain people without charge, or deport them to any country he chooses even if it is known they’ll be tortured there. Morrison’s decisions cannot be challenged.”
Morrison, with his LNP government has torn up our commitment and bond to the UN’s Refugees Convention, a treaty Australia helped write and willingly signed up to more than fifty years ago. All references to our UN commitment have been removed from Australian law via this new bill that passed through the Senate.
I do not believe the majority of Australians would support these moves. To do so incites the very worst in us, a frightening apparition of what we could become. A fascist nation with no heart.
I work in a field that writes for our nation’s young, and we care very much about children. We visit schools, we talk to kids, we write about their dreams and hopes. I cannot imagine even one of Australia’s children’s book creators not standing united in horror and dismay at the direction our country takes under this regime.
I urge every single one of you, my friends, to look away from your computers, from your story making, from your pens and paints, and to stand united with one voice.
Speak out before it’s too late. Join the voices of those who abhor this evil attitude engulfing our Parliament and our democratic Australia.
Use your powerful word skills for a powerful purpose.
Do it now … the pen (and the voice) is mightier than the sword!
Or ring your local LNP politician
I know schools are being stretched tight with funding and they must prioritise where the money goes. But, an increasing number of my author and illustrator colleagues are being asked to appear for free at schools who say they can’t afford to pay. Surely, one must ask, isn’t the opportunity for students’ to connect with the world of books and writing important too?
Recently, two children’s authors were asked if they’d visit a school to speak to students as a ‘marketing exercise’ for the author rather than a paid engagement.
Marketing exercise? Sounds good. Authors and illustrators have to market themselves nowadays – publishers don’t have the money to do it, except for their best-selling authors (who, you would think, hardly need advertising and marketing).
But, unfortunately, ‘marketing’ your name/book to a small school community or even to a large community does not mean kids will run home to their parents saying, ‘Can I please buy anonymous author’s book, Such and Such, Dad? Please, I want this book more than a Big Rooster dinner tonight, and Mum, it’s even cheaper than Big Rooster’.
Marketing one’s name is a slow, steady process of many, many hours of writing or illustrating, occasionally winning awards even, coming up with books that kids and librarians will love (and parents too) and being paid to visit schools because the librarians love your books and think you’re good value. And word of mouth sells books. Ask the marketing department in any publishing house.
We rely on school visits and most of us love them with a passion – it’s a chance to connect with our fabulous audience and to engage with wonderful, enthusiastic librarians and teachers.
But, like other professionals, our writing is our business and like other businesses, we are paid for our professional service.
Here’s what other authors and illustrators say on the issue…
“When I’ve done visits for a small fee on the proviso that I can sell books, the most I’ve sold is probably 5 or 6. With a profit of maybe $5 – $8 per book, it hardly works out profitable, when you consider the time it takes to prepare for the visit and all.
And of course if you can’t sell books after the visit, and rely on the kids going home to ask Mum or Dad to go to the shops and buy the book…… well, add up the royalties for MAYBE one or two sales and you get a grand sum of $1 – $2 dollars!!! Bet not many teachers would put in a days work for that!”
“No, please don’t do it for free. Even being able to sell your books doesn’t make up for it in principle. I’m sure they allocate money for other things, but some just have this idea you should be grateful to be asked! I used to feel guilty until I discovered that my local state primary school paid $700 for a man and his two sheep dogs to come and give a demonstration on the oval!!”
“Try to negotiate at least half payment as long as you can sell books
yourself would be my best advice.”
“It’s an interesting issue. I’ve had a particular teacher from a local
school hassling me for a while to do an author visit for nothing. In
the end I got fed up and said that teachers don’t teach for nothing so
why should authors?”
“Lately, two writer’s festivals have asked me to be involved; both for
nothing. This irks me even more when festivals can pay some authors
and not others.”
“I had a request that was similar. In the end I didn’t do it as they ‘had no budget’ for me and it would have meant me taking the morning off work so I would have been losing money to do it. I did do one for free a few years ago for a small school through my local library (who have been amazing to me – hosted all my launches) but arranged to be able to sell and sign books on the day. Think I sold two books!
I know the teachers mean well thinking it’s a ‘marketing opportunity’ for us, but it hasn’t worked that way for me so far. My policy now is that I only do ‘freebies’ for my kids’ school and my local library. I send a quote for all others.”
And lastly, I asked Sophie Masson, award-winning author and an experienced school presenter about the issue – here are her words of wisdom.
“I think that the authors have made the right move in refusing the offer. Schools must not think they can get an author for nothing–after all no teacher would consent to give an hour’s free teaching, would they! I know many schools cry poor (and indeed many are) but there are many grants available for even impoverished schools to pay for authors: the ASA’s info page about their partnership program with the NSW Government, Authors in Priority Schools offers just such an opportunity (Ed: not available in other states). The local branch of the CBC may also help, and librarians’ association also can provide grants. For standard talks and workshops, I’d never do them for nothing, not even locally.
As an aside, though, when you’re dealing with local schools, particularly primary, where you do feel a sense of connection to the community, there are also creative ways you can get involved as an author, without charging yet also without doing yourself out of income.
For instance, I ran a competition at one of our local primary schools recently (the one my boys went to) which was centred around one of my books, the Boggle Hunters–the kids had to draw a boggle, and the three best creations got a prize (which I donated–a copy of the book and an extra thing.) There was a special event at the school then for the presentation. It was a big success, the kids loved it, so did their teachers.
I didn’t feel put upon but really enjoyed it, the local media were intrigued and did a good story on it (which they wouldn’t have done if it had just been a talk) and the book got heaps of publicity. Plus it set no bad precedent about getting work out of me for nothing!”
Thank you, Sophie, and all the other concerned children’s books’ creators.
Here’s the link to the Australian Society of Authors‘ suggested Rates and Conditions for published writers and illustrators. The ASA states: These rates take into account the time and effort members devote to researching and writing and/or illustrating books and making public appearances in connection with promoting them. While members occasionally might allow their work to be used for less, we encourage them to regard ASA rates as an industry standard and, if possible, to negotiate fees higher than the minimum.
Have you had a similar experience recently? Do you have some advice on the issue? If you’d like to remain anonymous, do so. Would love to read your comments.
I’m a children’s author. My job is to tell stories to Australian children and beyond our shores. Stories that will stir them, make them laugh, take them into another world, stories that will make them think.
I don’t expect to win a literary prize any day soon, (although it would be very nice to) but I don’t begrudge those who do. It helps their careers in an industry where Australian authors earn 6-10% of a book’s price.
We children’s writers run school workshops to survive, but schools’ funding for arts exposure has diminished. A vicious circle forms. More outside work means less time and energy for authors to write, which equals less publications, lower earnings.
Government literary grants and awards for writers and artists are as valid to Australia’s development as a nation as sports funding or farm aid to those battlers on the land. That’s why we in the arts community, plus those Australians who believe in what we do, are so angry and dismayed at the new Queensland government’s action, under Premier Campbell Newman, to slash the State’s Literary Awards.
Many of us believe it’s the start of a pogrom against the arts in our beloved country.
When Winston Churchill was asked why didn’t he cut arts funding when money was needed in those darkest days of Britain’s battle against Nazi Germany, this great tactical leader replied, ‘Then what are we fighting for?’
Do you support funding the arts? Do you think it’s an essential part of our society?
Thank you to Fiona MacKenzie for the use of the Flickr image.
Ever heard of the SLAQ/IASL? No? Neither had I before getting involved in the Australian school librarians’ push to get better conditions in school libraries, and then the Government inquiry into the issue.
Last week, Brisbane was the lucky Australian city to host the School Library Association of Queensland Biennial Conference and the 39th International Association of School Librarianship Annual Conference – the 14th International Forum on Research in School Librarianship. Teacher Librarians from across the globe filled the Brisbane convention & Exhibition Centre at South Bank. Their theme: Diversity Challenge Resilience
Sixteen lucky Australian authors or illustrators (mostly from Queensland) were fortunate to be guests at their Authors’ Breakfast.
We included Belinda Jeffrey, Christine Bongers, Clare McFadden, David Cox, David McRobbie, Hazel Edwards, James Moloney, John Danalis, Kierin Meehan, Michael Bauer, Narelle Oliver, Peter Carnavas, Richard Newsome, Wendy Orr, Rebecca Johnson and me.
We each got to give a run down of what we do and show an artifact to do with one of our stories. I took along my cast of dinosaur footprints from the Lark Quarry Dinosaur Stampede at Winton, plus a piece of 50 million-year-old coprolite, fossilised turtle poo. Many fascinating things to see – highlight for me was author, John Danalis’s possum fur cloak presented to him by the Wamba Wamba elders.
It was also fabulous to meet and talk with so many enthusiastic TLs – without their commitment to literacy and literature, many children would not have the chance to read the books we write. And there would be many, many authors finding it even harder to make a living without the chance to get paid visits to school libraries and classrooms.
The battle to save school libraries continues with a new Government installed. The Inquiry had been launched by Julia Gillard last year – and playing a central role was Rob Oakeshott, a member of the Inquiry committee. Let’s hope he will continue to bat for TLs and school libraries in his role as an Independent in Parliament.
If you would like to know more about the Government Inquiry into the parlous state of School Libraries in Australia and also Teacher Librarian jobs, here’s the link to The Hub – a support blog.
And why wouldn’t you want to know? After all, without Teacher-Librarians and school libraries, authors and illustrators would not sell as many books, would we?