Been pinged a few times about the thing in which some folks are complaining that Neil Gaiman got paid a bunch of money ($45k or so) to make an appearance at a library. Neil’s take on it is here, but my take is below:
Really? An author who has had four books simultaneously on the New York Times best seller lists, has won an unspeakable number of literary awards, has written for and/or had his books adapted to film, the most recent of which was nominated for an Oscar, and who sold roughly a million books last year, might conceivably ask for and receive a hefty sum for a speaking engagement? Shocked, shocked, I am.
Aside from proof that the free market works sometimes, there’s the additional fact that Gaiman’s appearance fee was taken not from that specific library’s general fund, but out of a pool of money from the State of Minnesota designed to bring speakers to libraries, and the money in the pool apparently had to be spent by the end of the fiscal year or evaporate. Neil, in his bit linked above, rather sensibly suggests that speaker pool money like that should be allowed to roll over into the next fiscal year, but no matter how you slice it he wasn’t cruelly yanking books out of kids’ hands in order to make his financial nut.
(I suppose this is the cue for someone to bitch and moan about tax dollars being spent frivolously, but, you know, I can think of all sorts of worse ways to spend tax money than having a bestselling author talk to 500 people live and thousands more via radio (the talk was broadcast on Minneapolis Public Radio and is currently being streamed online) about the joys of libraries and literacy, and I don’t consider such a thing frivolous at all, in fact, so we’d have to agree to disagree on that one.)
One of the folks who pinged me asked me if I would charge a library $45,000 for a speaking appearance. Leaving aside the provenance of the money in Neil’s case, the more accurate question would be could I charge a library $45,000 for a speaking appearance, and the answer to that, alas, is “no,” so would doesn’t even come into it. But if I were in Neil’s particular situation, in which someone was offering me a pot of money, not from the library’s own budget, which was going to evaporate if it were not used? If it fit in my schedule, sure, I’d do that, no problem.
So, in all: Meh. I’m having trouble seeing the problem here.