Hey cHEwY gum gums!

When I first started visiting schools as an author, the speakers scene was still in its infancy. So it wasn’t uncommon for authors and illustrators to be approached by schools to visit them to talk about writing or their books…and to be paid with a smile or if you’re lucky, a morning tea.

I had to gently knock back their offers and kindly link them to ASA Recommended Rates of Pay page. It was awkward to begin with, and I felt like a fraud sometimes asking for what seemed to be a large amount of money to do something I love. Nowadays, being paid as a speaking author has become the norm, helped along by the various speaker agencies popping up across Australia.

Writers and illustrators, like all artists, should place a value on their work.

However, with the advent of virtual/online visits, it feels like we’re starting from scratch. So what happens when you’re approached to do a quick 15 minute Zoom chat with a group of students. Or a short video with 5 top writing tips for a class, ideally with little exercises attached to each tip so they can work on something… surely it won’t take that much time or effort, being at home, right? You could squeeze that in between some writing…

I’ve always been happy to do free things throughout my writing journey. I love this sharing and caring kidslit community. So the next time you’ve been asked to do a freebie, here are some questions to ask yourself.

HAVE I GOT THE TIME?

It sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be amazed how often you can say yes to everything, including the free things, and then become overwhelmed with a packed schedule. Even during these iso-times, a quick 15 minute chat requires an hour of preparing, mentally and physically. We may be performing from our homes, but we still have to be switched on. So if you honestly have a deadline or a burning desire to write, do that instead. You’ve got to prioritise the things that will pay you first.

CAN I USE IT TO PROMOTE MY LATEST BOOK?

If there’s a chance to reach a large or new audience, then you can pencil in that engagement as part of your promo tour, especially when you have a new book to talk about.

DO YOU WANT TO GIVE BACK TO YOUR NOT-FOR-PROFIT ORGANISATION/GROUP?

There are a ton of volunteer groups of all sizes, from your local writers group to larger organisations like the CBCA. I was happy to be a part of the CBCA NSW Lunchtime Storytime series, because they’ve done a tremendous job in helping schools and libraries connect to books during this remote-learning phase. There are also various writers causes and charities out there like Room To Read or Books in Homes who rely on passionate helpers too. Volunteering will give you feel-good vibes, and you’ll motivate others as well. The best kind of groups are the ones that have vibrant volunteers who are all keen to give back to the community.

DO YOU WANT TO HELP OUT A FRIEND?

Writers and illustrators are a tight-knit community, so we always like to ask each other for favours and help each other out. It works both ways. I’ve been lucky that other authors have supported me too. Plus you shouldn’t feel guilty if you knock them back. They are the first to understand if you’re busy because they get it, which leads to me the final question…

SERIOUSLY, DO YOU REALLY HAVE THE TIME?

When someone writes, I know how extremely busy you are so there’s no obligation etc, they really mean it. It’s not reverse psychology. Your time is valuable, so choose to do the free things that excite you the most. Last thing you want to do is reluctantly say yes and put in a half-baked effort.

Now that would really be a waste of time.

O.W

About the author

I'm an author, stand-up comedian and teacher. My books include Thai-riffic!, Con-nerd, Punchlines and The Other Christy. I'm a massive Nintendo fan and love eating burgers. Follow me on Twitter or Instagram @oliverwinfree