Compensating the Entertainment

Something that has come up often concerns panelists at conventions. Many conventions require panelists to pay full price to get into the con. Most of the ones I attend grant the panelist at least one, but sometimes two, tickets to the show. Of course, this is assuming the panelist will be on a set number of events, typically two or three per day minimum.

I’ve been compiling a list of conventions in the genres I write in or where I can contribute to the genre panels. So far, my spreadsheet has over 210 conventions. A good 60 additional cons note on their websites that panelists do not get any benefits despite providing a majority of the entertainment for the convention attendees. In effect, attending guests (not Guests of Honor) aren’t guests, they’re volunteers who travel to the con, pay for their own meals and hotel, plus have to chip in an additional fifty bucks so they can get in the door to sit on a panel and entertain.

While most cons don’t make much money, most authors have a tough time scraping that extra fifty to make the trip, especially if there’s traveling involved. Some folks say the authors and panelists are getting exposure. Unless the con gives away a table, or has a free author signing table, the panelists have to shell out an extra hundred for a simple table in Author or Artists Alley. Luckily, several of the conventions I attend not only include a ticket for my wife and I, but they kick in a free Author Alley table (for example, AnomalyCon, Starfest, and MileHiCon). Paying for tables are reasonable, up to a point. Getting exposure is the same argument that tiny presses are using to get free content. Exposure doesn’t pay an electric bill or the mortgage. Professional authors should be getting paid for their work. Whatever that amount is, from a free copy of a print book to eight cents per word (Daily Science Fiction), the author should have some compensation for the work creating something new. The same goes for providing the entertainment/panels for a convention, in my opinion. Whatever that compensation is, it should at least be a ticket to get in the door.

After all, some of those cons take place in midwinter, and having a panel in a snowbank can lead to more problems than exposure.

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