Neil Gaiman's awesome FAQ justifying his $45,000 speaking fee

neil-gaiman_l.jpgThere's a minor brouhaha going on over the $45,000 speaking fee Neil Gaiman recently charged to give a talk at a public library. You can read all about it at the link if you want. I admit my first reaction was "Well, that does seem like quite a bit..." until I read Neil's awesome FAQ about the fee:
Q. How can I get Neil Gaiman to make an appearance at my school/convention/event? A. Contact Lisa Bransdorf at the Greater Talent Network. Tell her you want Neil to appear somewhere. Have her tell you how much it costs. Have her say it again in case you misheard it the first time. Tell her you could get Bill Clinton for that money. Have her tell you that you couldn't even get ten minutes of Bill Clinton for that money but it's true, he's not cheap. On the other hand, I'm really busy, and I ought to be writing, so pricing appearances somewhere between ridiculously high and obscenely high helps to discourage most of the people who want me to come and talk to them. Which I could make a full time profession, if I didn't say 'no' a lot.
UPDATE: Neil has a new blog post about the topic that goes into even more detail for those who care to read it. You should. Here are some tidibts:
"The vast majority of the events I do and of the talks, lectures or readings I give are done for free, often as charity fundraisers" "I figure money like that, sort of out-of-the-blue windfall money, is best used for Good Deeds, so I let a couple of small and needy charities (one doing social work, the other library/book based) know that I would be passing the money on to them" "The scary thing is that if you are (to pick a couple of real-life examples from the last few years) an advertising congress or the R&D department of a multinational car company, I charge a lot more than that to come and speak."
Also, Cory weighed in with a good comment on the issue.


    1. Sarah Palin commands 100k. Now I’m wondering how she could be divided into 2 and 1/10 Neil Gaimans. And how much would Neil Gaiman charge to go to a Palin event, have someone hack into the sound system and talk instead of her?

      Also totally agree on the point Cowicide also picked out of the artice, considering 17,000 times that amount of public welfare funds are going to a shrine in the Vikings honor, they can throw the happy mutants of the community a bone. How many librarys would 791 million build?

  1. Sorry. That policy still sounds douchey. He should just say no to events, except in certain circumstances.

    1. Yes, he should absolutely prioritize his time and work according to YOUR values not HIS. What was he thinking?

  2. Egads, someone at “Syfy” knows who Neil Gaiman is? Colour me even more surprised than when I found out they were going to bring in even more wrestling into their channel of imagination; oh wait, that didn’t surprise me at all.

    Also if I was a successful author I’d be charge by the word for talks.

    1. Allow me to blow your mind further: We not only know of Neil Gaiman, we know him personally and have worked with him. Many of us are even fans of his work. Crazy, I know ;)

  3. It’s really very simple: Mr Gaiman should be paid what the market will bear, even if the purchasers of his time are public libraries. Everyone should be paid what the market will bear: Fortune 500 executives. Baseball players. House painters. Massage therapists. Fortune tellers.

    1. RE: “It’s really very simple: Mr Gaiman should be paid what the market will bear, even if the purchasers of his time are public libraries. Everyone should be paid what the market will bear: Fortune 500 executives. Baseball players. House painters. Massage therapists. Fortune tellers.”

      Well based on that, what will the market bear for Neil to come over and give me a massage? He doesn’t even have to speak, he can just give me an alluring smile and rub me until… excuse me, I need to go get a towel.

  4. I’m a librarian, I’d love to have Neil Gaiman speak at our library and if we had the funds to pay his fee we happily would.

    The people crying foul about this don’t realize the huge impact an author of Mr. Gaiman’s stature can have speaking to a community. Someone who excites people, young and old, about reading and creativity like he does is worth his weight in platinum.

    Which given current platinum prices would mean you’re getting 26 pounds of Gaiman for the speakers fee. What a bargain!

    1. “I’m a librarian, I’d love to have Neil Gaiman speak at our library and if we had the funds to pay his fee we happily would.”

      You seriously think an hour of this guys time is that valuable (~1,000x yours)?

      Plus its not like his speeches can’t be recorded and played back later for free.


    2. Ounces, you could get 26 ounces of platinum for Mr Gaiman’s speaking fee. Not that I’m disagreeing with you, if I had a $45k budget to blow I’d totally get him too.

  5. I fully agree. I use a similar policy on acquaintances who want tech support. If they want me to come to their house and fix their computers, I tell them I charge $50/hr (still cheaper than geek squad I believe). If they balk at the price, it wouldn’t have been worth my time at any price.

  6. There’s nothing awesome about this FAQ, it’s just a justification of his price tag. Everyone gouges speaking fees and people pay them or they don’t. That said, you could get more famous/notable speakers cheaper.

    1. OK, speaking as a lecture committee member at a large public university, anyone you’ve ever heard of on the lecture circuit charges about that much. Activists and academics you’ve never heard of will charge less, but the only person more famous/notable who’s even close is probably George Bush.

  7. An acquaintance of mine who was enjoying his retirement once told me that his ex-employer was trying to get him to come back to work as a consultant. He wasn’t sure he wanted to do it since, as I said, he was enjoying his retirement; but he was told that he could make a lot more money as a consultant than he did when he was working on salary. He asked me my advice, and what I thought he ought to charge as a consulting fee. I told him that he should simply decide how much an hour of his free time was worth to him, and charge that. If they were willing to pay that much (or more), it would be worth it. If they weren’t, he could go on enjoying his free time. He liked my suggestion.

    I would give that same advice to anyone who wasn’t desperate for money. So, I for one applaud Neil Gaiman for charging what he feels his free time is worth to him. If they’re not willing to pay the price, he’s got better things to do. (Though, of course, I would hope that he would be willing to cut or waive the fee if it were for a worthy cause; since he can probably afford it.)

  8. I really can’t see how you can possibly fault someone for charging whatever it is they charge to show up and speak. If you think the price is too high… DON’T PAY THEM. It isn’t like they are putting a gun to your head and demanding cold hard cash or else they will splatter our brains.

    That said, speak fees can be questioned. The person to be questioned on them isn’t the speaker though, it is the organization shelling out the cash. A library that drops 45k to get Gaiman in should probably be questioned. That is enough money to hire a full time staffer for a year. Is Gaiman for an evening REALLY going to add 45K worth of value to the library? Is there really nothing you can think of where that money might have been more helpful?

    Again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with someone charging whatever they want for their time. The real question is whether or not the organization in question is really thinking things through when they shell out that kind of money.

  9. “We thought about the type of audience that he would attract, and the sort of once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make this happen,” he said. “This was a new metrowide event, and we knew this would bring media attention to it and enhance the other programs that would happen after this one…Olson, who has served on the American Library Association’s governing council, noted that such heavy-hitter speakers as former Vice President Al Gore and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright charged the group $60,000 to $75,000 for speeches…“That was another incidental factor,” Olson said. “Libraries are the only group [among those receiving legacy amendment funds] that don’t have the ability to roll over these dollars from year one to year two of the biennium, so we had a fairly large pot of money that we had to spend by June 30, 2010.”

  10. @2: How is it “douchy” to charge the money people are willing to pay? Do you call Apple “douchy” for charging 500 $ for the iPad? Or Keith Thompson for charging 50 bucks for a print?

    1. Also, how douchy is it to donate the proceeds to charity? All $45,000 of it. I can’t believe the gall of this Neil person … who is he anyway? I mean, it’s not like he’s a MAJOR, BESTSELLING author who wins literary AWARDS all the time or something. Eesh.

  11. The problem here is one of perception. Gaiman has taken full advantage of the ALS’s Newbery Award and heightened profile in the library world to increase his stature and book sales. To accept this enormous fee from a small library (he advertised the event widely on Facebook and Twitter) without disclosing the enormous sum which he was receiving – indeed it was painted in such a way to suggest that the event was free – shows a marked lack of judgment.

    1. This is a ridiculous statement. Mr. Gaiman doesn’t need to worry about increasing his sales or stature! The man is incredibly successsful already without any help from ALA! The Newbery was for a children’s book and that’s not even his strongest genre! People are also neglecting to mention the fact that last December he went to TWO lucky local bookstores for FREE. After attending one of these events, I can honestly say that he is worth paying top dollar for.

    2. Just because you like his plot development doesn’t mean he owes you transparency, a humble dwarven example of workmanly life, and a talking down. It does seem odd atimes not to have a cross-section of interests out there (would ramble in an Apple Store with 40 people for less, New Zealand also agreeable) rather than just via publicist.

  12. So since he’s so busy, he can only give talks to groups with deep pockets? Sounds pretty phony. Why doesn’t he just do them more cheaply and only when he can? What he’s saying is: I am really busy, but I’ll make time for rich people. Money is naturally more important to me than connecting with my fans or sharing my views.

    FYI: Oliver Sacks, an equal or greater (greater) celebrity only charges $20,000.

    1. IF you took the time to read the attached article, you’ll see that he just gave two pro bono talks. So your first sentence is wrong.

      I think what he’s saying is that he doesn’t want to do the lecture circuit.

      1. I’m just responding to what he said. He said the cost is to discourage people from asking him, because he is too busy. The implication is that he makes time for rich people. (Though I suppose its possible hes not good at expressing his views in print.)

        If he doesn’t want to do the lecture circuit, why not just change the FAQ to say “I don’t do lectures.”

        Its just somewhat surprising that this guy, someone you might guess is more interested in art than money, accept large sums of money (removing them from a budget which might say, buy books for kids) for himself.

        I guess I just get annoyed when millionaires justify why they deserve even more money. I get doubly annoyed when they claim their time is more valuable than it actually is. The worst of the worst is when they insinuate that they use money to filter people out (rather than just saying, sorry I don’t have time for that).

        EO Wilson, one of the greatest living scientists of our time, turned down a speaking invitation at my university ($5000 fee) saying he could not fit it into his schedule, but urged us to try again for a future date. He responded personally to the call.

        1. I love the fact that this is the Nth post ignoring the fact that he donates the proceeds to charities.

    2. Who the eff is Oliver Sacks?

      *goes to google*

      Oh, the guy who wrote ‘Awakenings’. Funny thing, that…I would think of De Niro or Williams first for that title.

      Which is to say…notability is in the eye of the beholder. Obviously, the people writing the check thought that Gaiman’s fee was reasonable. Additionally: “Dr. Sacks spends most of his time writing and seeing patients, and is no longer lecturing frequently.

      He does not attend conferences, and he is not accepting any overseas invitations.”

      Make of that what you will.

      1. Who the eff is Oliver Sacks?

        Oliver Sacks has got it goin’ on. However he chooses to spend his time, it’s to the great benefit of someone other than himself.

        Look him up on TED videos.

      2. Oliver Sacks has written many books and is a great popularizer of science. Hes both a doctor and an educator. Your response says more about you than about him. He agreed to do the talk at my institution, but wanted $20k. We asked if he could do it for less due to our budget so he actually agreed to do it for $10k plus travel. Unfortunately travel for him and his aide from Britain under his requirements would still make it cost more than we could afford. So yeah, he doesn’t speak much, but he will sometimes if the venue is interesting, and his price is negotiable. Neil’s language seems pretty off-putting. Even to someone who’s read most of his books.

        1. I make no bones about the fact that my lack of knowledge about who Oliver Sacks is is because of a shortcoming on my part. My statement was more based on the original assertion that Sacks is “an equal (or greater) celebrity” — obviously, Gaiman is a greater celebrity in the circles that I am in, as I had to Google Sacks to find out who he is.

          Now, I agree that the language in Gaiman’s FAQ is a little off-putting, but I take that as intentional, to weed out “the suckers”. I’m sure that Gaiman would rather have someone find his straight-forward FAQ come across as brusque than have to waste time arguing with someone over the fee. As has been mentioned by other people, Gaiman chooses to do a number of speaking engagements either for free or at a reduced fee — at times of his choosing. If you want to *tell* him when and where you want him, you have to pay. I don’t see what’s so bad about that.

    3. Who is Oliver Sacks? I’m not Googling him. I want to try an remember… no, I’m drawing a blank. Sorry!

      Let Neil charge what he wants. If no one will pay to have him come out then he’ll have more time to write awesome books! (and I’ll pay plenty to have them!)

  13. I’m not happy about this. Neil may get less requests this way, for sure, and letting the market decide who gets to hear him. Trouble is, who should really hear him? People with lots of money? There’s something stinky about this process.

    1. 500 customers of a small public library are ‘people with a lot of money?’

      I think you’ve got this backwards. This is about government money which is meant to be spent on events like this being spent to bring a top-line writer to a little place. He also mentions that he speaks for free sometimes. From what you’re saying, you should actually be in favour of what happened.

  14. And I might point out, he didn’t say he charges this because his time is so valuable (it’s not like the man makes $40k an hour, or even a day), he said it’s to DISCOURAGE people from reaching out to him. It’s to keep the plebes and riff-raff off his doorstep.

  15. It is about value. The value that Neil Gaiman brings to an event. Too high, then don’t pay the market rate and *surprise* no Neil Gaiman.

  16. Yes, the market determines the price, but the market isn’t just the exchange of money, it’s also the exchange of information. Praise and criticism are fingers of the invisible hand, every bit as important as the decision to buy or not to buy. Maybe even more so.

    “All the market will bear,” includes the possibility that the market will say, “You’re a douche for asking for $45,000 per engagement.” Or, “Dude, it’s so worth it.” Or all of the above.

    The consumer is not merely limited to choosing to buy or not buy.

  17. Who’s Oliver Sacks?

    I don’t really care how much money Neil Gaiman charges to give speeches at public libraries. Seems to me that if people are willing to pay $45,000 for you to speak, then you have every right to charge $45,000 to speak. If it was too much, people wouldn’t pay it, eh? But honestly, I don’t see how it’s any of my business. Long as he keeps writing awesome books, I could care less. One less writer who has to use library computers with free internet to post his blog posts is always a good thing. ;)

  18. Trouble is, who should really hear him? People with lots of money? There’s something stinky about this process.

    You’re right, comrade. We should nationalize Neil Gaiman.

    1. There should be a law demanding full and honest cost disclosure at the beginning of every speech: “Hi, I’m XX and I get 45.000$ for this 1 hour talk”. That should transform everyone involved for the better.

  19. Just hire Alan Rickman instead and get him to read from a couple of second-hand paperbacks. Nobody will complain. And Mr. Gaiman can get on with his writing or hang out in his amazing home library.

  20. Gaiman is one of the most prolific writers of our current day and age. donating his time for every library that asked him is not even close to feasible. He’s worked hard, does many charitable activities and deserves his fee, period. I’m so sick of hearing people trying to put greatness down for basically working and getting paid. I would pay to hear him speak, he obviously has influence or he could never demand such a fee. Before you spout off making comments like “douche” you should find out a little more so you don’t look so f-ing stupid.

    1. Gaiman is one of the most prolific writers of our current day and age. donating his time for every library that asked him is not even close to feasible. He’s worked hard, does many charitable activities and deserves his fee, period. I’m so sick of hearing people trying to put greatness down for basically working and getting paid. I would pay to hear him speak, he obviously has influence or he could never demand such a fee. Before you spout off making comments like “douche” you should find out a little more so you don’t look so f-ing stupid.

      Lisa Bransdorf? Is this you?

  21. @rumanchu and @Glindie, you two really need to read a bit more. He’s a brilliant neurologist who’s written some amazing books based on case studies.

    /Off topic

    1. Yes, but unless you’re actually interested in neurology, when are you going to hear about him? I randomly found his book Musicophilia and picked it up because I love music. Otherwise I’d have never heard of him.

  22. Neil has every right to charge what he wants. What is ridiculus is a public library spending this much on a speaker. That disgusts me.

  23. I love the fact people are upset that a star would charge money to do something.

    First, Neil Gaiman is not isolated from the world. You want to ask him a question on his site, or Twitter or any place go ahead! This is far more egalitarian than authors in the pre-Internet age.

    Second, fandom gets me ill with the general sense of entitlement. You like something, fine. That doesn’t give you carte blanche to demand the creator of that thing just appear out of nowhere. I know that sounds cold and harsh, but if you do end up meeting the creator of something AND getting along with them AND having them spend time with you, consider yourself lucky. Even in the Internet age; see my first comment.

    Third, you do need to put up some kind of barriers to access when dealing with consumers; which is what fans are. I know BoingBoing is filled with debate on information being free, but a creator has a right to control when and how they choose to cede access to their fanbase. You don’t do that? You’ll just be mobbed and nobody is happy.

    Fourth—and most importantly—how do you expect creators of things to exist and make a living if they don’t sell something? I mean, in music what do you see: People preaching performing is the way to go. Ditto with books and comics. So where does this idea come people should just show up for free.

    Past all of that there is a reason why creators do appearances at shows and conventions: The convention organizers front a fee, fans come out and pay admission and even buy merch and everyone is happy and it evens out.

    C’mon folks, $45,000 is not a big deal. And in the great scheme of things it does bring people out. So whatever.

    PS: KremlinLaptop • #3 • Mon, May.10: ‘Egads, someone at “Syfy” knows who Neil Gaiman is?’
    Hate to break the news to you, but most high/low divisions in cultural taste are made either by fans or to market to fans. In the real world you’ll see far more creators of works mixing than you will in similar fan circles.

    1. Agreed. I think that this false sense of entitlement is worst among science fiction and fantasy fans. I don’t know whether that’s because they’re used to having regular access to authors at SFF conventions or what.

  24. My numbers may not be right, but it seems like when Neil gave talks in my area, they were usually held at large auditoriums or school gymnasiums. And the events always “sold” out. So I’d wager you’re looking at an audience of around 5k. The per person cost than is under $10, so it’s not nearly as expensive sounding when broken down.

    He also usually did motivational talks at the grade schools/high schools at the same time as his public talks. I’m not sure if those are reflected in the bill?

  25. Personally I don’t see how people could possible fault Neil Gaiman for this. If there’s any scandal here, its that the library agreed to pay the fee, which Neil himself admits was super high.

  26. Most of the speaking engagements he does are free.

    Douchey: “I’m going to live off speaking engagements and charge as much as the market will bear, because I’m lazy and it’s an easy way to make money.”

    Not douchey: “Despite having the opportunity to live off speaking engagements, I’d rather spend time writing, so I’m going to set an exorbitant rate as a disincentive. If I think speaking at your event for free is a good use of my time, I will, otherwise you get to decide whether you’re willing to pay what my time is worth.”

  27. I just worry that the fact that libraries think it’s worth blowing 50 grand on “value” like this is going to be used as justification for slashing their budgets, somewhere further down the line.

    1. You have to read what Gaiman said in his FAQ, though. The library had to spend the money. It came from a Legacy grant and the money would have been lost if it wasn’t spent. Most libraries I know (and I’m a librarian) if handed that much money, wouldn’t spend it on that. However, if handed that money and said, “You must spend this on a big-name speaker or else it’s gone?” Jump on it. Plus, Gaiman gave the money to charity. Now, the question of these grants being handed out in the first place is a whole different story.

  28. Maybe if he likes the audience, he refunds the venue a ‘good listeners rebate’. So behave, and pronounce his name right.

  29. Good for him!

    (The alternative is to simply refuse to talk anywhere, ever, but that really would make him a douche.)

  30. No ones time is worth that much. But life is not fair. I bet the guy is sick of meeting other douches too. I do not care for his work in particular. Now if you got Thomas Pynchon I might freak out like Dakota Fanning did about the idea of her meeting Madonna. Gaimen has a big market though. And I do like the subject matter of his work. It just doesn’t live for me.

  31. the [Star Tribune] questioned the hefty fee for the “fantasy and science fiction writer”

    Speaking of douchey, what’s wrong with being a SF writer?

    oh, but.. that’s right… it’s a lot of money, right Star? Yet the Star actively supports taxpayers spending $791 million in corporate welfare on a Vikings stadium?

    I wonder how much the Star would think a speaking engagement with a dumb sports jock would be worth? Sigh….

  32. Must! Not! Click! Link! To! Get! Facts!!!

    The money comes from a grant for programs like this. It can’t be used to buy books or pay salaries. The money was only allocated in October, 2009 and had to be spent by June, 2010 or it would be taken back. This was a big-ticket, inaugural event to generate interest in the program.

    And Neil Gaiman says:

    And, although I’m not sure that it’s anyone’s business, when I get money like this, I put it back out again. In this case, 25% of what I get goes to a social/abuse charity, and the other 75% goes to an author/literature/library related charity program.

  33. wow, the shock. Somebody charging a fee low enough that most organizations have no problems with it.

    It’s a lot of money, for sure, but is he 1000 times better than other staff? Apparently YES. If he can draw in enough short term or long term “business” then it’s no question. And each hour he spends on his own projects is worth a lot more than each hour I (or you, for that matter) spend on our project. And don’t forget that each hour of presentation probably means a whole day (or more) of lost work for him. And preparation for speaking.

    The man makes things that make a lot of money. Because of their high quality. His voice is such that people line up to listen to him. He can charge whatever he pleases.

  34. I have a great suggestion: there must be groups of about 45 000 boingboing readers in at least a handful of locations around the world (well, at least the US). Why don’t 45 000 boingboingers chip in 1 dollar each, get a microphone and a couple of amps and set up a stand in suitably huge public park? I’m sure someone will put up a facebook of donation pledges for just this in any minute now!

    1. “Why don’t 45 000 boingboingers chip in 1 dollar each, get a microphone and a couple of amps and set up a stand in suitably huge public park? I’m sure someone will put up a facebook of donation pledges for just this in any minute now!”

      I have a better idea… let’s all fund the “Neil Gaiman Ridiculous Speaking Tour” where we raise money and ship Neil off to weird places and have him give talks. I think penguins in Antarctica would love to hear Neil talk about Sandman, on plunk him down in the the African savanna to give a pep talk to cheetahs about life lessons they could learn from American Gods.

  35. I don’t charge anything like what Neil charges, but I have the same kind of problem: more people want me to come speak at their events than I have time to go and speak at. If I took all my speaking invites, I wouldn’t get any paid work done, I wouldn’t see my family, and chances are I’d ruin my health (hard travel is hard — I did 3 years of 3+ weeks/month on the road for EFF, hitting 31 countries, and it hurts after a while — literally; I had to stop taking coedine-based painkillers for my back because I’d become so accustomed to them that my dose was getting up into dangerous levels).

    So I limit how many talks I do, and one way of doing that is asking for a lot of money, especially for anything involving long-haul travel. Anyone who asks me to leave the continent for a talk gets a friendly, hand-written, personal note explaining that I can only do this for a ridiculous amount of money; that I’ll consider lowering my fee a little if they can’t make it, and that I’ll cheerfully add their institution or group to the list of people to come speak at for free the next time paid work brings me to their neck of the world (I pay someone to keep track of this).

    And then, like Neil, I do a ton of free talking: I’ll do sf conventions where I’m guest of honor for free (of course); I don’t charge any of my publishers to tour with my books (of course — but this takes me to 4 or 5 countries a year for a month or two’s worth of travel); I do EFF, ORG, and other civil liberties groups’ events for free (of course). I also attend one or two professional events at my own expense every year and speak for free (of course), such as the WorldCon.

    All told, I probably spend a little more time on on the road than I would truly like to, maybe 20-30%. But most of the time I really enjoy seeing people, talking about stuff I care about, raising money for causes I support, etc. It’s a fun deal. That said, I also dearly want to spend more time at my desk and more time with my family. Like everything in life, there’s a trade-off, and I’m thankful every day that I’m lucky enough to have a trade-off between two such pleasurable alternatives.

  36. So would this work better if we were only trading 45,000 whuffi points for the lecture?

  37. At one time I hired a famous yacht racer for a high tech special event. He charged $30,000 plus expenses. I heard he was a terrible speaker but the people wanted him. He came to the event didn’t hang and smooze before or after his speech.

    I heard from people who attended that he was a terrible speaker and they weren’t happy that he didn’t hang out with them. I realized then that the actual “speaking” had nothing to do with why he was there. It wasn’t because he was entertaining, or they learned something from him. I was because they wanted some of the reflected glory of ‘fame’. They wanted to learn about “leadership” and what it takes to be a “winner”.

    At the time I was friends with people in the National Speakers guild who were all talking about polishing their “platform skills”. I wanted to tell them, that platform skills are only necessary for unfamous people, work on your “fame” and you don’t have to worry about your “platform skills”

    I think about all the politicians who are paid to speak and how the payments are, in many cases, a down payment on future support or thank yous for past support.

    As in, “I can’t thank you enough for your help passing NAFTA, but here is %450,000 now for making sure we have access to cheap labor and goods for years to come.”

    Is the issue about the value of the speaker or the group paying the fee? Will they recoup the costs or is the point to gain value in some other way, “Everyone who attended really, REALLY enjoyed it!” or “When he/she becomes president we will get more government funding.” or “He walked really strongly after 9/11 covered with dust we appreciate that let’s give him $100,000.”

    “He commands $100,000 for a speech, not including expenses, which his star-struck clients are happily willing to pay. In one speech last year at Oklahoma State University, Giuliani requested and received travel on a private Gulfstream jet that cost the school $47,000 to operate. His visit essentially wiped out the student speakers annual fund. “

  38. And yet hardly anyone complains when someone gets paid millions of dollars a year just because they can throw a ball really far. Can anything be stupider than that?

    Also, Oliver Sacks is amazing.

  39. Anyone who questions this fee obviously lives in a fantasy world or just plain never heard of Neil Gaiman. The man makes millions with his imagination and writing talents. Virtually every book he writes these days ends up on best-selling lists for weeks, and/or has been (or is currently being made into) a popular feature film.
    He has a rabid fan base which just keeps growing bigger and bigger, yet he often takes part in charity events, spends hours after scheduled events to make sure fans that stayed in line get to see him, and is generally a very stand-up guy. If he gave away his time for free, he would be so inundated with requests that the requests alone would eat up thousands and thousands of dollars worth of his and his (small)staff’s time. So to save everyone a lot of grief he sets his price super high, and when it is paid a huge percentage generally goes to charity (often to literary or free speech causes). The man does tons of stuff for free, but does not openly advertise that fact because he would be inundated with requests (and probably has to deal with too many of them as it is).

  40. What’s the fuzz all about? Gaiman is a *very* scarce resource/good/service. This sort of pricing helps allocating it more efficiently.

  41. I’ve always found honorariums to be sketchy, but that’s an instinct more than a logical objection. Still, they exist for one purpose- to get everyone of your back. These people aren’t famous for being lecturers, they’re famous and interesting because they did something else. They want to keep doing that something else. Lectures take time away from that, and while they may enjoy the occasional talk- by and large it’s not what they want to be doing with their lives, and they need to deter people from constantly making demands on their time. The only other way to do it is by lottery, which is inherently unfair and capricious- since under that system people who want it more have to wait in line with the most casual of groups. So it’s not perfect, but it works. If you have a better system, by all means implement for yourself when you start to give talks. (And I’m not being sardonic, I making the point that people who do the work tend to understand the nature of it better than most- and honorariums of this sort are highly usual.)

    People who talk about “the market” and what it will bear are clearly unoriginal mindless drones of the worst sort. Not because they hold the position so much as because they think stating the position adds value to the discussion. It doesn’t. Not merely because it’s appeared in the comments more times that I can count, but because “the market” doesn’t decide what it will bear by every participant shutting the fuck up about it. Often enough, conscious consensus decides how much “the market” will bear. This is, whether you like it or not, part of “the market” because the “the market” has no definable boundaries. People here could easily be the same people willing or wanting to hire Gaiman in the future. All of this is just to say, I understand AF Hayek gives you a raging hard-on and Milton Friedman is your God- but that’s no excuse for injecting the same non-declaration of “people pay what people will” into every. Damn. Discussion. Especially, since in this case, Gaiman has stated that the profit-motive is a moot point. Which makes such statements even more worthless, brainless, and disgustingly tangential.

    1. Dear Chemist: Yes, agreed. They act as if the market is some magical thing that just works, rather than social interactions that just happens to revolve around money. Further, they seem to forget that what happens in the market has real world consequences and people make decisions that make the “markets happen”. It’s not devoid of human beings, as some imagine it to be… Gaiman is a human being engaging in a social interaction with other human beings, in this case those who wish to have him come speak at their place (presumably many of them), so he charges a fee, much of which apparently goes to charity.

      Dear Jeffbell! 8ft wedding dresses don’t come cheap, it’s true.

      I would love to see NG speak or read, but at this point, it’s not going to happen. Every time he’s somewhere round my parts of the world, the event gets sold out quickly (he rarely heads south). When he was in town last for his Graveyard book thing the tickets did sell out (they were free, but you needed to pick them up in person, one per person, and that just wasn’t happening with my family’s schedule – my kiddo was bitterly disappointed). Also, I heard that at the actually reading/signing they let families go first, as it was a school night and some 1000 or so were there. From everything I’ve heard or read, he bends over backwards for his fans, even now, when there are more fans than there used to be. Anyone remember the couple in… I think it was the Philippines… who he wrote a marriage proposal for the chick, from the guy. Seems like a nice guy who has to make limits somehow.

  42. If you want to see Neil Gaiman do a reading, just buy a ticket to any of Amanda Palmer’s solo shows – he seems to have enough time to do something at most of the shows I or my friends have seen

  43. Ridiculous to get worked up over what the big G charges for speaking or anything else he does.

    Great picture of Neil though.

  44. Sorry, but when I hear someone say “I’m so cool, my words this evening will cost you FORTY FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS,” what I really see is a greedy, egotistical loser. Yes, he should be able to charge what the market will bear. There’s a sucker born every minute (like the Stillwater public library,) but to take advantage of them is pretty slimy.

    And as for the library, someone should be fired over that decision. What did that $45k get them? Sure, a crowd of people were all impressed and inspired for an evening. They probably talked about it the next morning at breakfast. By 2:30 pm the next day they might have remembered a couple talking points. And 72 hours later it was a distant memory. The following week all was forgotten. Not that memories and experiences aren’t worth good money, they are. Some are in fact priceless. But to let that $45k of public library money simply evaporate on a speech by a greedy egotistical loser? When libraries are being cut left and right? Nice work. Good luck rebuilding that shattered economy.

    1. Scissorfighter, if you aren’t going to read the link, you could at least read the comment thread. Specifically, Antinous at 10 and 45 and Cory at 51.

    2. =rolls eyes= And paying some guy $20 *million to chase around a frozen chunk of rubber or a ball makes way more sense to you? Let’s not even look at the massive amounts “retired” politicans for a speaking appearance. The library didn’t fork out the cash. The Legacy Fund, caught in a position of spend the cash or lose it, did. Had the library approached him on its own, there’s a fair chance he’d have done it for free.

      Doesn’t sound like the normal actions of a “greedy egotistical loser” to me. Next time read *everything before spouting off, hunh?

  45. $45,000 seems reasonable to me. Athletes get paid MUCH more per game for “work”. It’s physical “work”, so that means it’s work. Gaiman charges for his “work”, and because it’s mental, it’s not considered “work”.

    I’m sure Cory can attest to the strains of travel, the mental exhaustion after speaking, conversing with fans, answering questions, and the like.

  46. “I think that this false sense of entitlement is worst among science fiction and fantasy fans.”

    I could not find a convenient link to some of his rants but Harlan Ellison used to go on and on about fan behavior. It was both sad and hilarious.

    Like having fans invite him out to dinner. And expecting HIM to pick up the check.

  47. They should have had George R.R. Martin do the talk. That guy is such a procrastinator that he probably would have paid the library $45,000 to do the talk.

  48. The real story here isn’t what Gaiman charges. As many have said here, if someone wants to pay, go ahead. (I read a story a decade ago about Cokie Roberts “commanding” $50,000 speaking fees.) The real story is Doctorow’s willingness to give one of his idol’s a free pass on the basis of such an iffy, icky, self-serving rationale.

    You shoulda taken a pass on this post, Cory. Love the books, not the author.

    1. You might take another look at the byline; Cory didn’t make this post.

      As to the other person’s post re: art vs money, that’s such a specious argument. When you see an attorney charging a lot, do you wonder why he values money instead of the law? If a doctor makes a few hundred thousand dollars a year, are you confused as to why he doesn’t value helping people over money? Everyone considers money important because it’s our substitute for value – it’s modern society’s medium of exchange, and it’s needed by everyone for every purpose from paying the mortgage to getting art supplies. So being surprised when someone values money is like being surprised when someone likes breathing or enjoys sex. It’s not an exceptional thing.

    2. “The real story here isn’t what Gaiman charges… The real story is Doctorow’s willingness to give one of his idol’s a free pass on the basis of such an iffy, icky, self-serving rationale.

      You shoulda taken a pass on this post, Cory. Love the books, not the author”

      I come at it from the other side in tewrms of what you allage Doctorow’s position is. I have little time for Gaiman personally and no time for his writing, but support his position in this case 100%.

      Writers should be in their studies with pens and paper, not parading themselves around the world like unto a thing of a pop star or politician.

  49. I saw Neil Gaiman speak in Toronto; a reading from Anansi Boys. He’s a magical speaker, and was well worth the ticket price. There were about 800 in attendance, and after the reading, he stayed signing autographs for everyone. It took over 6 hours. How did we manage it? He had large bowls of candy in place for us to nibble on as we waited. He even chatted a bit with each of us. The man loves his fans and he shows it. He deserves as much money as he can get.

  50. I’m available to talk about Neil or Cory for a lot less, and I have tons of free time. Plus I like libraries. Call my agent.

  51. Drew @ 36:
    Not douchey: “Despite having the opportunity to live off speaking engagements, I’d rather spend time writing, so I’m going to set an exorbitant rate as a disincentive. If I think speaking at your event for free is a good use of my time, I will, otherwise you get to decide whether you’re willing to pay what my time is worth.”

    Yes, this. It’s not just “how much is an hour of my time worth?” It’s “how much is an hour of my time not spent writing worth?” Not to mention travel time, time away from family, etc. He could be like Mark Twain, doing the lecture circuit, but decided not to.

    I think Gaiman’s fee is ridiculously high–more than any yearly salary I’ve ever pulled down–but he also thinks it’s “ridiculously to obscenely high.” If he didn’t think it was obscenely high, that would be worrying.

    It’s his lookout whether he wants to take what he deems to be “ridiculously to obscenely high” fees to talk to libraries, schools, or what-have-you, and how his willingness to take those fees reflects on him. Apparently he’s willing to take those fees to talk to organizations who are willing to pay what he wants, because these fees in the long run probably enable him to get more actual books out.

    I think it’s a little tricky because he gives some talks for free if it’s worth it to him and he wants to support the organization, and gives other talks for money though those organizations are not necessarily less intrinsically worthy of support. It’s not clear to me from reading that Citypages article why the Stillwater public library was charged a fee and the Jessamine public library wasn’t–I think it might have been a matter of timing on that one: the Jessamine public library reading was during National Library Week, and the Stillwater public library had to use up a bunch of cash by the end of their fiscal year and were probably trying to find an interesting high-ticket high-draw speaker to bring in. It’s probably not because Gaiman has a vendetta against libraries, and I bet that something named the “State & Cultural Legacy fund” might have restrictions on it so that the funds can’t be used to, say, give people food or pay mortgages.

    If he gave public talks for free, he wouldn’t be able to do his main job–writing, and readers would complain that there hadn’t been new books yet. And if he wouldn’t give public talks for any price, people would complain about that, too. This is a compromise. Perhaps it’s not a good one, since the author thinks his own speaking fees are too high, but he’s also tried to explain why he set them to something he thinks is too high instead of cutting off giving any public talks.

  52. ….except that the brouhaha was minor/over-and-done-with until it hit Boing Boing and was given legs to keep going.

    If only you understood how this just feeds the trolls.

  53. Give me a break! How much would a computer geek charge for digging a ditch for a day? How much would YOU charge for doing something that isn’t your primary interest/real job, and waste a lot of time you could otherwise have spent DOING your real job?

    Gaiman gives away his time for worthy causes.

    Gaiman gives away these high fees when he charges them, to worthy causes.

    Anyone who thinks he’s being greedy (or “charging what the market will bear,” which is making a virtue of that same flaw) or “douchey” for charging this fee just isn’t paying attention to the facts.

    Neil Gaiman is not your bitch. He’s particularly not your bitch for whatever fee you feel like paying!

  54. Its just somewhat surprising that this guy, someone you might guess is more interested in art than money

    I know where this stereotype comes from (starving artist in garret chooses art over food), but I want to debunk it.

    I know artists who do gallery shows of prints, and artists who write, and artists who do sculpture and theater and puppetry, and artists who paint, and artists who do jewelry and fibercrafts and woodworking and dollmaking and cooking and graphic design and electronic music and cartooning and costuming. I know full-time artists and part-time artists. I myself write and sometimes get paid for it.

    I’ve never met any artist who was not interested in money, although most of them, including myself, are often frustrated by it (we recognize that even if bartering sheep came back into fashion, we’d all be worrying about how many sheep we had). All the artists I’ve ever met are interested in money for one reason: without it, they cannot make art.

    Part-time artists are interested in money because of problems like these: where will they will get the money to buy art supplies, or pay their mortgage, or their Etsy fee, or maybe go to that convention where they can see friends and do a reading or talk to a gallery owner?–but plane tickets are $200 this year, so no dice!

    Full-time artists have all of those problems, plus the problem that the only source for that money is going to be the sale of said art, since they have been dedicated and lucky enough to be able to give up their day job.

    And then when part-time artists can’t go to cons on their day-job salary once they’ve paid the mortgage, the Etsy fee and bought art supplies–or when full-time artists sell their art to get money to go to the con or give a talk–people say that they should care more about art than about money, anyway, so why are they complaining?

    It’s frustrating and kind of insulting to say that artists should care more about art than money, when money is the thing that enables them to create–or not create–art, and connect with people who care about art. I wish the myth of “true artists choose art over money” would die, like the starving artist in the garret probably did.

    1. Everything. You. Said.

      I’m put-off to see how many people have this bitter contempt towards creative types whenever they DARE succeed and actually reap the rewards they’ve squarely earned.

      Art, of any form, is a risky, capricious, thankless field. Once you decide to go down that road, you have absolutely no guarantee of success (actually, your odds lean more on the abject failure side). It usually takes YEARS to build a brand, reputation or portfolio that may adequately support eating 3 square meals a day and perhaps getting a decent dwelling to live in, IF that.

      In the meantime, you need incredible amounts of resilience, faith in your own abilities and solid nerves to forego a steady paycheck and any kind of retirement or future plans (and, again, the high risk that these years are never coming back and might never bear fruit).

      So guess what: IF these years of precariously balancing time, scarce ressources, hard work and stress FINALLY pay off, why shouldn’t an artist gleefully embrace it and manage his/her success as he/she intends?? If it isn’t stolen money and is built squarely on said artist’s repute, popularity and creation, why the heck not??

      Too many people dwell on the OTHER artist stereotype: The flaky, narcissistic ‘artiste’, with a rich gallery-owning uncle, who shits paint on a canvas for 10 minutes and gets thousands of dollars for it effortlessly, surrounded by wine and cheese. That is not most artists. Most artists have to be entrepreneurs, managers, accountants, publicists and PR agents beside doing what they actually want to do (draw, write, play, etc) if they seriously want a shot at making a basic living. Why shouldn’t they unapologetically accept the financial rewards skillful entrepreneurs, managers, accountants and PR agents would each get in their own right if it ever flies their way?

      Neil Gaiman wrote his little heart out, no doubt failed a few times, proved himself, the fickle public embraced him and he’s now reaping the rewards of a job done steadily and well. AND he actually gives back and contributes with his art, money and time (if you care to actually check).

      Funny how many people “love art” but totally loathe artists, especially when they don’t starve and die lonely, horrible deaths.

    2. Perfectly put, Cassandra. I’m going to keep a copy of your comments for use when someone tries to guilt me out for stating my purposely prohibitive (i.e. reasonable!) fee to sing at their ladies’ holiday party (I’m a freelance classical singer)… apparently anyone who loves a performer’s work, and thinks the performer must enjoy doing it, feels entitled to snag their services for $100! I didn’t mind the $100 30 years ago, but feel justified in having upped my ladies’ holiday party rate by a decimal point… and the greatest thing about it is that it guarantees that I no longer have to do any! in that, I’m just like Neil Gaiman (except for his additional $44,000).

      I came to this discussion today, over a month after the brouhaha broke, as the Minneapolis paper just printed yet another huffy commentary about it– and one which didn’t mention Neil Gaiman, or the fact that he donated the fee to charity.

      And now, I think I’ll attach links to this discussion, as well as Gaiman’s comments, to that ill-researched rant in the Star Tribune.

  55. I still do not understand why people insist that authors/artists/whoever should not be compensated for their time. If they *choose* to do something for charity, bravo. If not, so what? It’s his time, he can price it however he wants, and he gave pretty compelling reasons for doing so. Besides, now I know how much it’ll cost to have him at my next birthday party.

  56. I would pay a good bit of money to see Neil Gaiman subvert a Palin event. Now THAT would be worth $45,000. :)

  57. My two cents: if Neil Gaiman was a famous sports figure — hell, a famous sports writer — or even another kind of famous writer — nobody at the Strib would have said a peep at a library paying him $45K. Or $100K. The Strib understands the value of sports writers.

    But Mr Gaiman writes fantasy literature and started out writing comic bo…graphic novels, no less. So how could what he says be worth anything?

    His FAQ is spot on. I heartily approve. Nothing more to see here, people, move along.

  58. I don’t understand, it’s like %s/author/musician/ and the same old “because true artists don’t care about money anyways and it’s not fair he should make more money than me stacking shelves in costco, because everyone is special it says so in the constitution, anyways, I’ll buy it if i like it, but I have to have a starbucks, and I need to pay off the new plasma tv” brigade.

    he’s like, making money touring, isn’t that the recommended freetard action plan for old media types in a new media world?

  59. I heard Neil Gaiman give a keynote speech years ago in San Diego. He’s worth every penny for how inspiring his words are. All my friends who heard the speech thought it was life-changing, including me.

    Artists should be paid for their art. Gaiman is a writer. He would have written something fantastic and read it out loud and possibly changed some lives in the process. That’s what they paid for.

  60. Wow, so many people missing a huge point of this whole thing. There was a GRANT of MONEY for arts and culture, of which the library in question received a portion, WHICH THEY COULD ONLY USE FOR THIS SPEAKER SERIES, and HAD to use the money by JUNE 30, 2010.

    I believe the series was for 8 speakers at the library. They had a significant amount of money. They had to use the money, why not use to astound and amaze people.

    Anyone who complains about how much Neil costs to have him come and speak/read, has never heard Neil read before. It is a singular experience, and well worth the money.

  61. I’m sure he gets a lot more requests to speak than he could possibly honor. If you’re an expert or a celebrity, you can’t be everywhere that everyone wants you to be. Setting a high price weeds out the least serious ones and a lot of the ones that would be a big waste of his time(like speaking at high school commencements, speaking to college literature classes,etc). At his rate, even if the engagement had to be funded fully by ticket sales, it could be paid for by 1800 people at only 25 dollars per ticket. And many engagements surely aren’t relying entirely on ticket sales. I’m sure some might be able to partner with colleges or business sponsors to make the tickets cheaper or require less of a turn out to break even. If you invited him as the star attraction of a high-end charity event, you could easily make a bunch of money for your charity at his rate.

  62. I’ve got mixed feelings. I’m sure there’s more to the story, I mean of course he should be able to charge whatever he wants for his own free time. That being said I would like to think that things like that are negotiable depending on who asks.

  63. I don’t care much about money, so I charge $300 an hour for technical consultation, starting the moment I leave my house and ending the moment I return. That way I get very few consulting gigs, which is the whole point of charging a ridiculously high fee. I’d earn a lot more money if I charged less. I’d also have a lot less time to do the things I actually want to do, like raise kids.

    If you can’t afford me, and you don’t like the people who can, how is that my problem? I’m sorry you are losing Darwin’s lottery, but I really can’t help you without hurting my family.

    1. But see, you don’t HAVE to pay him to write something. That’s his default behavior.

      Unless you want to control what he writes, in which case you’re probably out of luck. I can’t imagine that he takes commissions at any price.

  64. Neil’s put up a blog post explaining his side of the mess, if anyone’s interested:

    I’m not certain how this turned into a Neil-bashing session. I don’t believe that he is being greedy – especially since, as has been pointed out, he gave away all of the fees to charities. To suggest that it is somehow wrong for Neil’s *agency* to have charged that much is a bit off base as well since nowhere in his FAQ does it say that $45k is what he usually charges and he regularly does speaking gigs for free. From what I gather, to “rent him out” – as one might put it – on your own time-line is where the costs can occur, especially if its taking away from his writing time. Besides, its not as if whoever booked him asked for a discount either.

    I also don’t think that this is the library’s fault; they were only working with what was given to them within the time-line given to them. That’s what happens when you are given a (government) budget that doesn’t roll over. Either you use it all up however it has already been ear-marked for you or it disappears into the aether.

    No, I think that this is being made a big deal: a) through people not actually reading the articles and spreading disinformation; and b) lingering frustration with this Legacy fund the money came from. With the government’s inability to come up with logical or reasonable rules regarding the spending of the money. And, I suppose, c) because the Star Tribune would rather see that money go towards a shiny, new stadium for other millionaires – who I could guarantee would nickel and dime you for an appearance and then keep all of it – to play in. Misdirected fury? I think so.

  65. According to the American Library Association, there are 122,566 public libraries in the United States. If one considers a speaking engagement to be a one hour speech with one hour of q&a and another two hours for travel to the next library and the various physical demands a body has (assuming the speaker is giving the same talk over and over and doesn’t spend any time writing new ones), that’s 2 library appearances a day. Maybe 3,if you make the author raise his hand to go to lunch and there’s less driving time. So, using 3,that means it would take 40,855 1/3 days to speak at every library and I didn’t figure in leap years nor potential changes in the calendar systems of the future, so this number is approximate) 111 years to get the whole thing done. That’s speaking 7 days a week. And that’s being quite nationalistic on my part as well. It’s not getting to the libraries world-wide that would love to have Mr. Gaiman come and talk to them.

    And that’s just libraries in the US. That’s not including college graduations, fund-raisers and the one’s children’s PTA events.

    Oh, yes, Dave! and birthday parties, yours & mine. I mean, if we’re going to get our noses out of joint because Mr. Gaiman isn’t doing everything for free all the time, let’s get them out of joint in proportion, shall we? Dave! and I have birthdays coming up.

    1. You know, he probably could have taken the speaking engagement, accepted the fee from the special fund that couldn’t be used for anything but speakers, observed that maybe this wasn’t the best use for the state’s money, then turned around and donated the $45k direct to the library’s operating fund… and people would *still* find something to complain about, when he effectively would have given a free talk that drew people to the libray *and* helped them out with their budget.

  66. It seems ridiculous to me that Mr. Gaiman should have to “justify” his speaking fee. The only necessary justification for a particular amount is that some competent group or individual was willing to pay it.

  67. I think it a bit strange that these comments talk about the ‘business’ such a speaker can
    bring to a library, when there is no real ‘business’ to most libraries other than publicly or private foundation funded service, that is, no business, no money changes hands between the client being served and the library providing the service.

  68. Gaiman does a great deal of free speaking appearances, more than he does paid, and often for libraries. This library chose to pay him. That’s their deal.

    Charging large sums discourages askers and keeps Mr. Gaiman writing. As much as we might all wish to have him read his novels to us all personally, there is only so much of him to go around. This is a good and fair method for ensuring that he doesn’t end up doing too much talking and not enough writing, especially considering the charity engagements he does.

    Because in the end, we all have to remember that it’s the *writing* that his fans adore him for, not the lecturing. If this is what he has to do to keep to himself enough time for writing, I’m all for it.

  69. A few months ago, Neil Gaiman came to our small town to give a free lecture and signing as a prize to our local children’s book shop (which won a Graveyard Book-related contest). He stayed until past 1:00 in the morning so that all 1600 people who came could get their books signed and have a picture opportunity with him (over five hours of signing). He was unfailingly kind and polite to every single person who waited in line to meet him, and even personalized his autographs (not just a scrawled “Neil Gaiman”). Did I mention he did this for free? He then flew to another town the next day to do the same thing all over again for the other bookshop that won the contest.

  70. The real story here is how many people are willing to make categorical statements about a story without bothering to find out anything about what actually happened.

    To those upset at the Library for not spending the money on books or staff: They weren’t allowed to. The money was politically allocated for specific purposes and had to be spent before June.

    To those upset at Gaiman for charging so much: 1) He frequently speaks for free, usually at Libraries. 2) When he does charge the big fee, he donates the money.

    Finally, comment sections would be far more useful and enjoyable places if people bothered to take a little time and research before mouthing off or only commenting on the things they knew about.

  71. I’ve seen both Mr. Gaiman and Mr. Doctorow speak. My total out of pocket cost was less than $10. Both were good enough to read from an unpublished work. I plan to see Mr. Doctorow in Naperville tomorrow.

    Although I enjoyed hearing two of my favorite writers, I much prefer their books to their speeches and am happy that they are arranging their schedules to maximize their written product.

  72. He’s an author, not a recently retired politician. There is nothing wrong sketchy about him charging what he likes for speaking. And demanding a bowl of m&ms with the brown ones removed. That said, that is not a proper use for a public library’s budget.

  73. Granted, Mr. Gaiman makes a WHOLE BUNCH more money than the average writer (like me), but even so…

    I think some of you commenters need to get the Freelance Facts of Life here.

    A) The hourly wage mentality doesn’t work here. There simply isn’t a one-to-one ratio of time spent on something v. how much you get paid like it would be when you’re punching a clock. Sometimes it feels like you’re at a slot machine. It can be hard to predict what will be a big seller, a big earner or not.

    B) If you get hired for a talk, your fee is not a fee for the length of time it takes to give the talk. Those so-called spontaneous, off-the-cuff and oh-so-natural speeches you see and love? They’re the result of a great deal of preparation. I average 20 hours of preparation for the first time I give a talk on a topic. Yes, if I give that talk again, the prep time goes down, but never below three or four hours for an hour-long talk. You only know you’ve done a good job if it SEEMS spontaneous. So the idea of earning 45K for and hour or two isn’t accurate. Yes, Mr. Gaiman charges a whole lot of money, but he’s SAID WHY!

    C) It is a very common strategy among anyone who is self-employed to price out stuff they aren’t as interested in doing. I charge a great deal more to travel than I would to teach or give a talk close to my home. Privately, I call it the PITA tax.

    D) He’s self-employed. Shoot, to be ABLE to do what he does, he’s an *employer*. His self-employment tax is probably gut-wrenching, God alone knows what he pays for health insurance. Not only does he have to pay for these things for himself and his family, he’s got the headaches and expenses of being an employer just so he can have time to do what he wants to do — WRITE. (The promotion stuff is necessary to sell the books, but I’ve known of few writers who really LIKE that. Most writers are writers because they LIKE being alone with the word processor creating art). If he doesn’t make himself at least a little accessible, he can’t do his JOB (sell stories).

    I’m not saying this to say “Poor Neil”. But he has worked hard to be successful in a field so competitive that few people have any idea. I think it’s a bit small to begrudge that, especially when his large speaking fees are part of a strategy to give him time to write.

  74. I can’t imagine that he takes commissions at any price.

    Actually, if you are an editor putting together a collection and you want a piece on a particular theme for your book, you can do exactly that. I know I’ve read blog entries of his where he mentions doing that sort of work.

    I also imagine that if you wanted him to write something for your own personal enjoyment, to be seen by no one else ever, that too could be arranged for the right price. He writes for publication because publishers pay money AND because he wants people to read his stories. If you take away the second motivation, you can probably make up for it by increasing the first.

    Neil Gaiman is a skilled professional writer of fiction. He can write an interesting story on nearly any topic, to deadline, because that’s what it means to be a skilled professional writer of fiction. When editors know they can count on you to deliver good work in a timely manner, they come back to you again and again, and you become successful.

  75. Anyone who thinks $45,000 for a few hours of speaking and shaking hands is fair market value obviously hasn’t seen this full-time Librarian’s paycheck and how much I make a year nor the vast number of people’s who make far less. Don’t misunderstand me. I love Gaiman’s work. He’s a brilliant writer with a brilliant imagination and should absolutely be paid for his time. That said, anyone who charges that much is an ass. For someone who uses the excuse that he charges so much because he would rather be doing something else, he sure as hell does a lot of personal appearances. If it really isn’t about the money, then only say yes to the appearances that really mean something to you, have the group pay for your room and board and give the rest of the money raised to the organization. $45,000 is a lower-middle-class salary for a year.

    1. For a full time librarian, you’d think you would have been able to read more before posting more drivel. #101 applies equally well to you.

      1. People rarely pay attention as they should. A lot of BB commenters seem to think actual knowledge would Taint Their Pure Opinions, To Which They Have a First Amendment Right.

        The fact that they have a right to be ignorant fools doesn’t mean they’re not, you know, ignorant fools.

  76. Thomas Pynchon seems to be able to refuse public appearances WITHOUT charging a gazillion dollars. Absurd.

    Gaiman said:
    “The main reason I got a speaking agency, ten years ago, was because too many requests for me to come and speak were coming in. And the speaking requests were, and are, a distraction from what I ought to be doing, which is writing. So rather than say no, we’ve always priced me high. Not Tony Blair high, or Sarah Palin high (last time I read about them, they’re about $400,000 and $150,000 respectively). But I’m at the top end of what it costs to bring an author who should be home writing and does not really want a second career as a public speaker to your event.”

  77. Many people have expressed my opinions well, but I wanted to add that Neil is unfailingly polite, generous, and gracious. He mentors other writers, encourages and supports many artists, and has a humble awareness of his debt to his fans. There are no bad guys here, but I do think public money could be more wisely spent if it could roll-over. I have spent public dollars because my budget would lose the money if I didn’t, no one feels good about that. And right now I am going without needed supplies because I failed to over-order when the money was there. That is the reality of large public organizations.

  78. On fair market value…

    A few years ago I played an MMORPG, and I was a supplier of a not-generally available commodity. (The game was Star Wars Galaxies, I was a smuggler, and the commodity was Imperial Faction.)

    One evening while I was hanging out and chatting with friends, someone came by and asked if I would sell him some Imperial Faction points. Sure, I told him, we’ll have to travel to (another planet) to get it, it’ll cost you X. –This was *my* cost for the faction, I wasn’t charging for my time, for the travel, or a PITA tax. No markup whatsoever.

    After a pause, he told me “(amount 20% less than X) is a good price for it.” I shrugged and turned back to my conversation with my friends. A few seconds later he asked when we were leaving. I informed him that since he wasn’t paying my price, we were no longer doing business, good day.
    Trying to find another seller, he also found out nobody else sold faction at cost.

    Fair market value is always a balance between what someone is willing to pay for something and what someone is willing to sell it for.

  79. I remember the first time that Neil went to the Philippines to speak. I remember being surprised that there were so many people there. I later found out it was the single biggest gathering (for just Neil) in the world at the time. But a common theme I heard amongst the people was: “I can’t believe there are so many other people who love his work!”

    To get in, people either had to buy (a set amount) of his books or pay a ticket. They ran out of tickets. Some of the people had been there since 4 am. Because of traffic, he was late. I wasn’t a fan. I was there because I gave a friend a ticket as a birthday present, but he had to leave before Neil arrived. I stayed. When Neil walked on stage, he was visibly stunned by what he later described as a ‘wall of sound’ – the cheers of his fans.

    I stayed, and was exposed to the magic of a wonderful, wonderful author, who also has a wonderful talent of being able to speak to his fanbase and not make them feel alienated. He treated us by reading out loud samples from Anansi Boys, which he was still writing at the time.

    I left when the booksigning began. But we later discovered that he stayed to sign until everyone had gotten their books signed. He wasn’t done until past 1 am.

    The next morning, I was one of those people waiting outside the bookstore at four am. And the day after that. Neil discovered the delights of calamansi juice and fresh coconut juice, and was given so many packages of dried mangoes and other delicacies as gifts he joked that the US customs would think he was a mango smuggler. On his journal, he thanked those fans, and also thanked the fan who gave him a collection of Filipino folk tales, which he was enjoying already. He spoke to his fans, joked with them, treated them with appreciation and respect, and every single one of them left happy.

    A few months later, he worked out an arrangement with the bookstore, and sponsored a fantasy/sci-fi writing and comic writing contest, to encourage young Filipino writers to submit their work. He felt that the small offerings of local fiction were worth nurturing, that the Philippines’ lore was wealth untapped.

    The last I heard, the contest has since expanded to film. The prize money comes out of his pocket, and it encourages hundreds, if not thousands of young artists, writers and budding film-makers to join.

    I’m glad that the bookstore pays his fee, pays his hotel and transport and security fees each time he visits. The bookstore owners consider it money worth the joy he brings to new readers, the inspiration to new artists, new writers. His fans consider it well worth the time and money they spend, to see him, hear him talk, listen to his lectures.

    And we don’t begrudge having to pay him (which, we do, by buying his books) for the magic of his stories.

    For a little perspective; the dollar then was around 50 pesos to a dollar.

    -Rory Modena

  80. It’s a little disappointing to see so many comments made by people who apparently don’t bother to read all the facts. Judging this by a paragraph or two is rash and irresponsible. Having read through the info that I can find on this issue I have learned that:
    1)Neil clearly explains his policy for doing talks like this on his blog. It seems pretty reasonable to me.
    2)He often does events where he waives his fee (especially if it is a good cause)
    3)The money he got from the library for this talk went to charity. In this case, 25% of what he got goes to a social/abuse charity, and the other 75% goes to an author/literature/library related charity program.
    4)The money comes from a grant for programs like this. It can’t be used to buy books or pay salaries. The money was only allocated in October, 2009 and had to be spent by June, 2010 or it would be taken back.

    So all in all, it looks like people are overreacting to partial info, again. Please, before you get all up in arms about something like this, get all the facts. You just make a fool of yourself when you go raving about things you haven’t bothered to learn about.

  81. The man prices himself ridiculously high so that people won’t ask him to come and speak unless they really, really want him to. It has nothing to do with market value or what the market will bear.

    He is a wildly successful writer. He wants to write. Speaking takes time away from writing.

    In order to keep writing, he makes it very hard for people to take him away from writing. When they do pay him to speak, he puts the money into charity.

    The money to bring in Neil and other authors came from a grant. People have to write grants and they have to be approved, which means that somebody somewhere reviewed this grant and thought it was a good idea. If that’s taking money out of your community, that’s not Neil’s fault. Talk to the people who wrote and/or approved the grant.

  82. Yep, I see nothing wrong with how Neil handles things – in fact, it’s admirable. The only thing he could have possibly done better would have been to return the money to the state of Minnesota, but I can see why he wouldn’t do that, as obviously they can’t manage their money very well. :)

    The real question here is whether Minnesota taxpayers are happy with spending $45,000 in taxpayer money to bring Neil in to speak. I suspect that many of them are not, given Minnesota’s dire financial situation ( It’s one thing for a private organization to pay Neil out of their own money, and quite another to use other people’s money to do so. Arguments that “it’s a fund dedicated to the arts” don’t hold water – if it was needed to keep basic services running, I guarantee it would be used without blinking an eye.

  83. OK, no problem, Gaiman’s a popular entertainment figure, he’s asking what the market can give, the money comes from a special grant for projects like this, and so on… Fine. But then, why is Gaiman trying to justify himself, now, if there is nothing to be ashamed of? And the “money goes to charity” excuse? Right. Where have we heard it before?

    1. Why is Gaiman explaining it, Irene? Probably because the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Fox News here in the Twin Cities made it front page news. (You keep posting the same thing on the different news sites linked to here. Are you actually reading the articles, or just trying to attack Gaiman with an “if he didn’t do anything wrong why is he saying he didn’t do anything wrong?” smear.

  84. 1. It DOES seem “douchey” to charge crazy amounts of money rather than having a reasonable speaking fee and just saying “no” to most offers. Until you think about it. Because you know what the difference between the two on his side is? Not the amount of talks he ends up giving (he can indeed refuse as many as he likes, or have a set number of readings he agrees to do per yea and no more), but the amount of time he has to spend reading emails from people asking him to talk, and weighing the considerations of whether or not he’d like to do it, if THIS is the one that’s worth it, etc. Having the prohibitively high asking price stops people from wasting his time in ASKING.

    2. It would indeed be douchey if his attitude was, as brillow alleged, “I am really busy, but I’ll make time for rich people.” Because of course, poor people and urban schoolchildren and so on all deserve to hear him as well, probably need to hear him more. But those things he’s so “busy” with? It’s NOT just writing. Part of his “too busy” is PRECISELY because he also travels all over and gives various talks for free, for a good cause, when he IS asked.

    In fact, he’s even given talks to college seminars AND poor urban schools, if I remember correctly.

  85. Are you just deliberately skipping the previous comments? He’s not justifying himself now – that FAQ has been up for quite a long time. He’s bringing it to people’s attention now, because of the controversy, but it’s not new. You’re trying to find spin where there is none.

    As for the comment of about his speaking fees being donated to charity, there’s so much cynicism there I shudder to think about it. If you don’t believe that he actually donates the money to charity, call the authorities and ask for an investigation. Otherwise, keep your foul insinuations to yourself.

    I mean, really: It seems from your comment that nothing would make you happy about the situation. If he didn’t call attention to his (longstanding) FAQ, I’m sure you would have railed at his aloofness; now that he has, you accuse him of doing so on account of a guilty conscience. If he kept the fee for himself (as most speakers do), you’d accuse him of avarice; even when he donated it to charity, you cynically imply that there’s something nefarious afoot. Without any offer of proof, I might add.

    A public fund earmarked for hiring speakers was used to hire a speaker, with money that would have vanished if unused and could be set to no other purpose. That speaker filled the house, thus accomplishing the program objective of raising interest and awareness in the location, and then donated his fee to charity. What more could you possibly ask for out of the situation?

  86. “We not only know of Neil Gaiman, we know him personally and have worked with him. Many of us are even fans of his work.”

    Wait…there are actually people at SyFy who are fans of science fiction and/or fantasy? Wow. Your programming would suggest the exact opposite.

  87. “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.”

    Jalal ad-Din Rumi

  88. Of the #136 posts before this, more than 100 shows signs of *NOT* having read the article.

    1) the money was reserved for speaking fees, cannot be used to buy books or hire more librarians, or anything else. He checked this before accepting the money.

    2) the budget year was ending next month, if not used now it will “expire”. Neil mentions in his blog that he favours allow unused money to roll over to the next year, but this is not yet possible.

    3) he usually donates all his speaking fees. In this particular case, he arranged this to be split 25:75 to two charities (before the event, before the whole thing blew up)

    4) he will charge a lot more than $45k if you’re a corporate type (ad agency, etc), or govt.

    5) he will charge a lot less for libraries, you only need to ask. Frequently he charges nothing at all. So no, he doesn’t only give talks for rich people.

    6) the whole point of setting a high price is to reduce “buyers”. If yu cannot afford it, see (5) above

  89. I listened to the speech Neil Gaiman gave at the Stillwater Library on MPR, he had posted a link to it on his website and stated that it had been made possible by Minnesota taxpayers, of which I am one. I was glad that some of the money we pay is used for things I find invaluable as well things like sports stadiums that have a different audience. I’m glad this discussion has shed light on several things, especially the fact that Neil Gaiman is a decent person doing wonderful work. I hope the legislators are more careful when they allocate monies, not letting funds rollover is an amazing waste of resources to my mind, but I support there being funds for more then just filling potholes and plowing snow.

  90. I think everyone would be do well to read Neil’s blog entry on the subject ( His fee is his fee, but he speaks for free, for charity, and at reduced prices (especially for libraries). No one asked him to reduce his fee. They assured him it was budgeted, the money could not be spent for anything other then to bring authors in, and they were perfectly happy to pay his agent’s flat speaking fee rate–which is set ridiculously high. It’s sad that someone who is so generous to his fans in both time and attention, is labeled in this way.

  91. You know the funny thing? I’m not a Neil Gaiman fan. I’m a fan of the literary genre Spider Robinson calls SF, and a convention attending fan at that. But Neil Gaiman just isn’t my thing.

    That said, it bears repeating that Neil has made it clear, as has BoingBoing, That the $45,000 was an earmarked fund that had to be either paid out or lost and the library decided to pay it out to Gaiman AND that Gaiman didn’t profit financially from the talk. He donated the profits to charity. Where’s the problem and what could Neil have done differently IN THIS ONE INSTANCE such that he would not be labelled negatively? Oh, wait!! I know!! I know!! He could have not spoken at the event! A ginourmous lose-lose scenario!

    Personally, I’ll pass at meeting Gaiman. But I AM spending money to attend a CON at which Cory is the ProGOH, because I am a BIG fan of his. And I don’t begrudge Cory any fee he can make at any speaking event.

    And yes, SF fans have always taken for granted the time an author spends with his/her fans, Harlan Ellison’s occasional vitriole notwithstanding. Actually, Ursula LeGuin explained it quite well in her article on the SF “ghetto” in Galaxy Magazine in the late 1970’s sometime. I attend conventions so I can spend some time with my favorite authors like they were just like me. Sitting in a con-suite with G.R.R.Martin, or Issac Asimov, hell, even Harlan Ellison makes life sweet, for sure. But it also sells SF books!

    @Cory Doctorow–See you in November at ICON 35!

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