How to Determine Your Author Fee

At one point or another, you may end up in a position where you’re asked what your fee is to present to a group of people. For a lot of the authors I know, this makes them a bit squirmy because it makes them think: What am I worth? And pretty much every person I know, author or not, never really values themselves very highly.

As your agent—and therefore not you—it’s easy for me to see your work’s value. After all, that’s a big part of my job. Valuing, realistically, what your work is worth. And indirectly, there are times where I feel like I’m determining what your worth is. (A million-trillion-billion dollars, I say!)

I can’t tell you how often clients come to me with questions like this:

A school asked for me to present in front of 400 students…can I ask that they pay me for this?

Or

XYZ Group wants me to fly out to their festival in March to participate on a panel and teach 2 workshops—should I cover all of my own expenses?

The answer is: your time and expertise is worth something…don’t undervalue yourself!

I’m not going to tell you what to charge here, but I will tell you the questions you should ask and the factors you should keep in mind. No matter what kind of group has invited you to speak/run a workshop, these are the questions that you need answers to before determining your fee:

  • What is the approximate time length of the presentation/workshop?
  • Approximately how many people will I be presenting to?
  • What is expected of my presentation/workshop? (just reading and excerpt and answering some audience questions is very different from having to create a key note speech or a 1-hour workshop syllabus)
  • Will I presenting just once, or multiple times throughout the day/weekend?
  • Will my books be sold at the event?

At the very least, your expenses should be covered. I mean, you shouldn’t be spending money to work for someone else, unless you’re doing it for charity. Some authors don’t know how to broach the subject. I advise that you be direct and get it out of the way first thing:

Thank you for inviting me to XYZ event! I’m very interested in presenting. I have a series of questions that will help me to calculate my fee, but first I will need to know if you’ll be covering my travel, accommodations and food while I’m there.

It’s that simple.

Once you know that and your questions have been answered, the rest is up to you. There are variable factors to keep in mind, of course, i.e. Is this your hometown high school? Is it your dream conference/location? Will the event be a good excuse to visit an old friend since it’s right near him/her? For any of these reasons (or others) you might agree not to be paid a fee or for your fee to be lower than usual, and that’s totally fine! Just remember these three things:

  1. Don’t make a habit of undervaluing yourself.
  2. Your time and expertise are worth something.
  3. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be contacting you!
     

7 Responses to How to Determine Your Author Fee

  1. Linda McLaren Aug 22 2012 at 6:55 am #

    Weighing up getting out there with how much is your time worth! A topic worthy of some thought. Thanks for sharing! : )

  2. Anna J. Boll Aug 22 2012 at 8:04 am #

    Such an important post and as I mention here: http://tinyurl.com/8t5xm27 it is often difficult for women to negotiate fair compensation.

  3. Angelica R. Jackson Aug 22 2012 at 10:26 am #

    I used to be a professional storyteller, and eventually undercut my own business by giving discounts to teachers and librarians. And even steeper discounts to teachers and librarians who begged or whinged. Chalk some of it up to being young, or being a softy, but not a way to make a living! The original intent was to make the good money on birthday parties and other events, but it turns out I didn’t like doing birthday parties.

  4. Erin Bowman
    Erin Bowman Aug 22 2012 at 11:19 am #

    Jo, this is fantastic. Thank you so much for tackling this topic. (I’m making note of the fact that you think we’re all worth “a million-trillion-billion dollars” so that I can use it as leverage when negotiating in the future. 😉 )

    • April Tucholke Aug 22 2012 at 6:53 pm #

      Yeah, a million trillion billion dollars! Who knew? Time to start getting our diva on. From blushing, bashful debut authors to prima donnas in 1.2 seconds. Thanks, Jo 🙂

  5. Omar Luqmaan-Harris Aug 22 2012 at 9:47 pm #

    Thanks for this post! Very helpful! Question: Do you think that the more robust your author platform, the higher your fee should be?

  6. Patrick Gabridge Aug 24 2012 at 9:28 pm #

    Great post, Joanna. I think this is one of the big benefits of having an agent that isn’t often discussed. I find it’s so hard to really be tough about valuing my time when it comes to situations like these. Having a third party, even if it’s just to give advice and support rather than handling the whole negotiation, is immensely helpful. As writers, we’re often so grateful just to be asked and noticed, that I think we fear the offer being withdrawn if we make a point of asking for what’s fair.

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