|At IIT Bhubhaneshwar. Was a SUPERB interaction and event|
This post is similar to the semi-rant post that I posted a while back--- Why I cannot read the Stuff you send me. Once again, I am compelled to write this post, after a long e-mail exchange, between one of the colleges I got invited to and Pranav, who handles all my speaking assignments. I had to get involved as the person was very persistent.
I am writing this post so that the next time I get a request, I can just send this link and avoid repetitive email exchanges.
I get invites from MANY colleges, throughout the country. The requests are many more than I can handle.
'Ma'am, we are your huge fans..We will display all your books...we will take care of your travel and stay but we don't have a budget for speaker fees.. We must tell you that X,Y and Z, including Abdul Kalam spoke at our college and they did not charge any fees .'. This is the general tone of emails. Many of the college festivals that invite me have music concerts and would not hesitate to spend huge amounts for paying the singers and flying the performers in. And so, what shocks me is that the colleges expect writers to speak for free.
|At BNLF. One of the best speaking assigments I have had|
What I don't also get is the inability to see things from the other person's POV. Why would I be interested in flying to X destination , which would involve many hours of travel, leaving my family behind, addressing student gatherings (which takes it's toll on me physically), leaving my main work aside (which is writing), juggling so many many things in order to be able to travel to a college and speak, because the students there need my motivation?!!
To those of you who think that I should do it out of the goodness of my heart, I must clarify that I have done a lot of work with the underprivileged and the poorest sections of society.
But when it comes to speaker requests, allow me to explain further why speaking is WORK and why I will not work for free.
1. Loss of working days: Firstly when I take up a speaking assignment, it is a loss of several working days for me. When I work on a novel, or a newspaper column, I have deadlines, as my publishers have invested heavily in me. I receive seven figure advances and my professionalism does not allow me to miss a deadline. I have never missed a deadline in my working life. Not even when someone close died. I deliver. It is something I am proud of. If I accept your speaker request, it probably means I would be cutting down on my sleep, or time spent with family, in order to catch up with my work. Writing IS work, and taking up a speaking assignment = loss of working days.
2. I invest a lot for a talk: When I accept a speaking assignment, it takes me at least 10 days to prepare for it.You can watch my ted X talks (please google) to see the level of preparation.This takes away from the other commitments I have.
3. Travel is exhausting-: Even if you take care of my tickets, travel is exhausting. I live in Bangalore, and the Bangalore airport has been shifted to Devanahalli which is very far from the city. To catch a 9.40 am flight, I have to leave home at 6.00 am. Which means I have to wake up at 4.30 am. Then there is the flying time itself, and usually further travel after that to reach the destination.
4. My time is limited: I want to and love to do the things that give me utmost joy---like spending time with my family, with my dog, reading, catching up on movies, sketching, having a good time with my friends and most of all writing. When you invite me, you are asking me to suspend all of that for a few days.
5. I rarely learn anything new: Most speaking assignments are the same to me. I get asked the same questions over and over and over. I have answered them so many times. While it is completely new to the audience, I don't get to learn anything new.
6. I need to be selective: How will I choose the colleges that invite me to speak? I don't go by reputation of the college (I have had some TERRIBLE experiences at very reputed colleges and some great experiences in unknown colleges). So one of the criteria for me to choose one college over the other, is whether or not they value me enough to offer me a speaking fee.
7. It doesn't matter to me that others speak for free: Most colleges come back and say that so-and-so spoke for free, and the past speakers have included Shashi Tharoor/ Abdul Kalam/________ (fill in suitably). I am happy that all of them have spoken at your college, and also that they did not charge anything to speak. However, it doesn't work for me. I am not as rich as them ;). At end of the day, it is writing that is my bread and butter, and it is my writing that gives me joy.
When I explain all of this, I get mails like these: (I am copy pasting an actual mail that I received after I refused to speak for free and when said that I would like to close this exchange)
Let's close it here. I thought "the higher you rise, more humble you get".
I guess that is not the case with everyone. Thank you so much for your time.
It was my pleasure to get in touch with you and your wonderful team and such a quick response.
All the best for your future. I will make sure that no one invites you to our college any further and waste your precious time as I did.
Thanks and Regards
I did not ask to be invited and I don't have to prove my humility!! Those of you who have met me in person know how I am. One of the things I always hear is 'M'am, you are so down-to-earth and nice.'
One maxim I live by is 'It is nice to be important but it is more important to be nice'.
However, being nice/humble/kind does not mean you have to compromise on what you believe you are worth! If you believe you deserve a certain sum, it is important to state it. If you have a policy, it is important to abide by it.
Also I have no issues at all with those folks who don't charge anything to speak at an event. I am happy if you get a speaker for your event, who is willing to work for free. It just doesn't work for me.
If you have understood the point I am making, leave me a comment, so I know that you get it!
Thank you! <3
1. I am embedding two of the many tweets I got in response to this post. Thank you folks--your support means a lot to me.
@preetishenoy Well-said PreetI!— Vinita Dawra Nangia (@VinitaNangia) February 2, 2017
2. This same person wrote me a long long lone e-mail after reading this post of mine, explaining their college policy and how their college is a 'Institute of Repute'. Here's the thing-- Nobody questioned the college policy. What I am shocked at is how nasty the tone of his email got , after I explained my stance on speaking assignments.
Ps: Those of you who are in Calicut, I will be at the Kerala Lit fest tomorrow. (2nd Feb 2017)
Grab my latest book: http://preeti.io/a