Monday, September 6, 2010


As often happens around August through October, I've seen an uptick in author appearance requests. It's back-to-school time! Perhaps this is why a lot of authors have recently been asking me about setting and changing fees, particularly in light of the tough economic situation and the resulting financial difficulties for schools and libraries.  About a month ago, I began drafting a lengthy blog post about setting appearance fees to post this month.  But recently, I realized two things: (1) my posts are getting rather long and (2) I've got a September 20th revision deadline PLUS a slew of new freelance jobs. So, this month, all four Back-to-Business Mondays are going to be installments of THE HONORARIUM QUESTION. Hopefully, they'll be quick and useful!

THE HONORARIUM QUESTION #1: Coming up with a base number

First, please note that these numbers are are neither prescriptive nor absolute. They are based on both my experiences working for publishers and myriad conversations with individual authors and illustrators.  Setting your appearance fee involves many consideration and is, ultimately, a very individual decision and there are certainly folks whose numbers fall outside the ranges I'll note.  That said, in my opinion, a reasonable honorarium range for first-time and single-title authors and illustrators is between $500 and $1,000/day. Authors/Illustrators with greater numbers of in-print books, and titles with wide ranges of reading levels can consider going higher, say $1,200-$2,500/day. It is customary to quote appearance fees as a per-day honorarium PLUS travel and lodging expenses.

Select the range in which you fall, above, then consider:

  • Number of books in print (and availability of paperback versus hardcover titles - this can affect the number of books sold at a given appearance as hardcovers are more expensive)
  • Age range to whom you speak (Consider that authors of YA are often speaking directly to their book-buying readership while picture book creators write for young kids but their books are often purchased by adults)
  • Number (and variety or types) of presentations you are willing to give for your daily fee
Once you've got a rough sense of what you will charge, give consideration to the following and adjust your fee if you feel this is warranted:

  • What is the economic situation for your local area and school district (especially important if you have good relationships with local schools and appear fairly often locally)?
  • Do you want to maximize appearance opportunities to publicize your book (lower fee) OR are speaking engagements a critical revenue-generator for you (higher, profit-margin-required fee)?
  • Do you have a new book coming out this year or are there other time-sensitive factors that make your appearances (a) more in-demand or (b) more important for you?
  • Are you an experienced speaker (perhaps a former teacher) and/or do you offer presentations with curriculum ties or other academic supports that add value to your appearances?
Hopefully, these considerations will provide a fairly easy formula for coming up with a number with which you can be comfortable. Next Monday: Discounting - When, How, If?


Dawn Simon said...

You have so much great information, Stasia. Thank you for sharing your expertise with us.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Thank you! Would you recommend posting fees on your website or just describing programs and having interested schools contact you for further details?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this, Stasia! The list of things to consider is very helpful.