In my pursuit of self-respect, one of the realizations I've been having is that how I allow my work and myself to be treated professionally is indicative of the respect I'm giving to myself. And if I don't set standards and boundaries for that treatment then I'll get walked all over. That has happened during my journey as a Pagan/occult author, and so I've come to a decision that I'm holding myself to and I'm telling all of you about, because in telling you I'm making a commitment to myself and to all the people who like my work that I will treat my work and myself with the respect I deserve and expect that respect in regards to professional appearances that I do. I do this for myself and my fans, because I am always a better presenter when I am given my due.
My commitment is this: I will no longer present at conferences where it is expected that I will foot the bill to come and present workshops. I will no longer pay to present at a conference. What that really means is that I'm not going to pay registration and airfare and hotel and food to present workshops for your event and help get people in the door for your event. If a conference wants me to present then they need to offer something to me and not just free registration or a discount on registration. They need to show respect and help out with the costs. What that means is registration covered for the presenter, and at the least helping to cover travel expenses. And if you want to modernize like other conventions out there and actually pay your presenters, I'm sure all of us will be happy about that as well.
Because when I am a presenter at your event, I am marketing your event on my website, in my newsletters, and on my podcast. I'm marketing the fact that I'll be there, but I'm also promoting the event, which means you will get more people in the door because of my marketing. I'm doing that as a courtesy to your event, but also as a way to support it and who I'm marketing it to is all my readers and followers and anyone they share my work with, which means your event has the potential to get more people in the door.
I get that a conference isn't a non-profit, but you know what? Neither am I. Presenting workshops and selling my books is part of how I make my living and when I'm expected to shell out money to come present at your conference, the math doesn't add up in my favor. I'm usually in the red or I break even and that doesn't work for me as an author or presenter. I know you want to make money so you can put the event on again next year and so do I so I can continue to go to events, write, and do all the other fantastic things I'm doing.
It also tells me that the people putting on the conference don't respect my contribution. Perhaps they have an attitude or belief that they don't really need a presenter, but if you alienate enough presenters or we just get fed up enough to boycott your event, that changes things, because guess what? You do need us. Presenters help draw people to events. People look at programming to see who is presenting and what is being presented on and then they decide if they'll go. If enough presenters decide not to present at your event, your business model will be in the red as well.
In the past I have paid for air fare, hotel rooms, food, and registration to present at events (That can be between $700 and $1000 per event). I've done this for the dubious promise of exposure...but exposure doesn't pay the bills. And while I appreciate the opportunity to present to people, I also know there are other ways to get in front of those people that has little to no overhead for me. If you aren't willing to honor my contribution to your event, why should I honor your event and help you get more people in the door with my name?
The only exception I'll make to this expectation of mine is for local events and that's because my costs are low and I know the event can draw more people by bringing presenters in who aren't local, so I want to support that. (By local I mean an event that's only a half hour away in travel time and where I can choose to say in my home and not pay hotel or food costs)
If I am flying to your event or driving a fair amount, then you need to find a way to cover some if not all of the costs because what you're getting return is my name, my brand, and my marketing, free of charge, to help you turn your conference into a successful one.
And please stop making authors from the big publishers your only guests of honor or having the same authors year in and year out as your guests of honor. Not all of us authors and presenters are with big publishers or want to be and we have some excellent material that your convention attendees will enjoy (I know this because my presentations are regularly overflowing and I can attest to that for other authors who aren't published by the big publishers). Granted once in a great while you do make an author who isn't with a big publisher your guest of honor, but its few and far between. Let's level that playing field. Be transparent about how you select guests of honor, so all of us know how it works and get a chance.
I have three events I'll be presenting at in 2016. I've made that commitment so I'll be at those events, but after that I'm not presenting at an event where at least some of my costs (beyond registration) aren't covered. I'm worth that. So are the other authors that come and present at your events and aren't comped. And if as a result I don't get into so many events, I can live with that, because there are other ways to reach my audience. I would love to be at your event, so show me some love in return and we'll make it great.
Edited: I've since written a second open letter to Pagan Convention Organizers which can be found here.