That’s rich?

I blame Tatum O’Neal. At least I think that’s who put the silly notion about chandeliers into my head. (Paper Moon?) If you have one, you are rich. I have one,* so obviously… What’s worse, it hangs right inside my front door, informing every caller about my wealth. I very nearly put it in the kitchen, for that very reason, but decided that someone who doesn’t dust, will not be wanting to wipe kitchen grime off her ‘crystal’ either.


This appearance of being well-off came up in a facebook discussion the other day, about the young men who sell overpriced dusters at the door. No sales here, because I don’t dust. Especially not if I’ve been ripped off first. But the house isn’t all that small, it’s in a good neighbourhood, and there is a car on the drive. I can’t claim to be poor, or expect to be believed should I try.

And in comparison with most of the world, we are very well off. I have no complaints in that department at all.

Anyway, the reason I’m going on about wealth is the recent stuff in the news about working for free. Or not doing it.

Me, I pay to work. Sorry, to blog. Mostly it’s free, but to bring you those witty blog posts about events I need to go to them. The least it will cost is my fare to the venue. If I’m lucky I get in for free. If not, I have to decide quite how keen I am, factoring in ticket price and anything else.

Getting in for free is becoming rarer. I don’t want to point the finger at anyone, but will say that the Manchester Children’s Book Festival have treated me extremely generously. I understand that festivals need to make money. But what I don’t get is why some organisers offer comp tickets despite an event selling out, but not for others that are only half full.

There’s a lot I don’t understand.

Then there are the presentations and the literary parties, which for someone working and/or living inside the M25 will not require too much agonising over whether to attend or not. I have needs. I’d like the event to start after 3pm and finish by 9pm (depending a little on exactly where it is). What’s more, I’d like to be told about it more than a month in advance, preferably longer still. That way I can make the trip to London for £25. Plus whatever comes off my Oystercard. (You’d think oysters…)

I genuinely don’t need to buy books. I have enough books to last me years. But as I mentioned the other day, sometimes books don’t turn up, and I might be desperate for a particular one, in which case I do my best to avoid that online bookseller, but occasionally it can’t be helped.

As some of you are aware, I won’t shop with my local independent. Even if things were not as they are, on our very modest household income it would be hard to justify a full price book purchase.

I really appreciate all the books I receive. That’s a real luxury. But you can’t eat books. You could possibly heat your house with them, but that would be taking madness too far.

People often ask why I started Bookwitch. What you should ask is why I haven’t stopped. I’ll tell you. It’s because it’s fun. Time consuming, but fun. A little costlier than I feel comfortable with. But fun.

I could go to events all the time. Often I say I can’t because I’m unavailable. But mostly it is because the money will only stretch so far. In my dreams, this is always when I suggest that a contribution would be lovely. And every single time I have this thought, it is swiftly followed by another one: ‘No. Because if I take someone’s money, it will seem as if I’ve been bought.’

For as long as I can, I will continue to pay for this fun. You – blog readers and authors and publishing types and festival people – make this worthwhile. (The Kleenex are over there, on the left. No! Not the box of chocolates!)

And when we next meet for a drink, the … uhm … tap water will be on me!

*Inherited 1940s ‘folk’ chandelier. Not fancy. Simply something that reminds me of its former owners.

9 responses to “That’s rich?

  1. I do enjoy reading the blog, but sympathise that it costs. At the very least, there is the time spent not earning any money (if you do that in other lives). One does things because one longs to, I suppose. I buy a lot of books from charity shops. They turn up surprisingly quickly, if you know where to look.

    • One Christmas I went round the charity shops (Altrincham have a very good selection) in order to find one specific novel by Val McDermid. Didn’t take long, and before Christmas was over I’d found it four times.

  2. This is a really interesting post. There’s been an awful lot of talk lately about authors charging or not charging for events. I think there is definitely a case to be made for bloggers like yourself – whom not only authors but publishers increasingly depend on to spread the word about our books – to have some sort of recognition of the many hours spent doing the kind of things you describe here. But, as you say, how to do it without losing your independence – which is crucial if you want to be respected and impartial blogger? I don’t really have any answers but I think it’s good that you have raised these questions and they are things that should be talked about.

    • Since Hay pay in wine, I’d been thinking maybe I could turn up at the station with a bottle and travel for free? If wine is currency…

      I sometimes think I’ll apply to JKR for some of her surplus money, and in my dreams she says yes. And then I still have to decline, because I realise I can’t take her money after all.

  3. I agree with Liz, publishers do reply more and more on bloggers, it would be great if they could be compensated. Comp tickets (as press tickets) and ARCs as a base line. I wonder if it’s also possible to monetise blogs? Not just by advert placement, but things like the book depository scheme where people get a cut of the sale if the buyer has come via your site?

    • One publisher offered me a percentage, but I sent them packing. Again, it would compromise me, and I suspect sales would either be too small to be worth the sacrifice, or I’d fret so much that I’d lose sight of what matters.

  4. I have followed the various iterations of this conversation with interest. in particular, I’ve been called to task for Huffington Post blogging as it is a commercial site making money off of those of us who post there for free. The point is well taken and has made me post there less than I did before, but I continue to do so because I feel it offers a different and broader audience than I get at my educating alice blog.

    I started out long ago as a visual artist, doing printmaking and aspiring to illustrate children’s books. I did a lot of stuff on my own with great pleasure, feeling it didn’t matter who saw it. But eventually I did tire of that and when I did not get book contracts (this was way back in the 70s and 80s) lost interest and moved on to other things.

    I then began writing on discussion groups about children’s lit, began receiving invitations to review and write articles, started my blog, and became inspired to write a kid book of my own (just out in the US). But I still write a lot for free for the reasons you and others articulated.

    I think my perspective is also connected to my work as a 4th grade classroom teacher. I do a lot of work at home, on weekends, and vacations for that. I get huge satisfaction out of the results with the kids which is why I do it. Same thing, I think, with the gratis writing I do.

    • Thanks, Monica. That’s really interesting to hear, because you do this so much ‘more’ than I can hope to. And to think I never wanted to be a teacher like Mother-of-witch, because I witnessed all that work in the evenings and on weekends that she had to do…
      I had wondered about the Huffington, and I agree, getting a larger audience is attractive. That was the case with the Guardian, while they still had money.

  5. I feel just as you do about being bought – only thing is, in my case, it applies to fiction. And no, I don’t believe that blogging or reviewing is less valuable. The satisfaction is in trying to get it right – and on rare occasion, succeeding. So, no matter what the cry to arms may be, I intend to keep it free. I can understand someone like Monica tiring of it, of course, but audience size has never interested me. In fact, I would probably detest the burden of a large following — shudder, just imagine having to give interviews & whip out lots of smart answers & reply to all those emails & keep up with social media & make sure my author photos are properly airbrushed (OK, photoshopped) …

    I repeat, shudder!

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