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Why I cannot speak for free at your event.

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)

Sure Mam.

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.

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:


  1. Mam I totally agree with u , that is what prioritizing is, most of us waste time doing unnecessary things feeling it as important & later we realise & regret for wasting time, which will be too late.Thank u for underlying message u have given to us

  2. Mam I totally agree with u , that is what prioritizing is, most of us waste time doing unnecessary things feeling it as important & later we realise & regret for wasting time, which will be too late.Thank u for underlying message u have given to us

  3. Ma'am, I completely agree with you. As joker from Batman's movie said "If you are good at something, never do it for free". Plus, it's true, it does take your precious time away that you can use to do something else that makes you happier. I hope people realize that what you do is your bread and butter as well, this is not your part time job like other motivational speaker (One that I know is Sandeep Maheshwari). It's been a long time to for me to comment at any of your posts, I thought it is important that you know what you are doing is the right thing.

    P.s I am reading your book It's All In the Planets. I don't want it to end so I read only a few pages daily when I go to work.

    Thank you very much for being such an inspiration and come out clean with what you feel. I appreciate that. Have an amazing day ahead Ma'am.

    1. Sandeep Maheshwari is not doing it a days YouTube is a big platform to make money . Sandeep Maheshwari is uploading his free lecture video with lots of audience on the YouTube and making a good money,for him all these people are just the requirements of his video which he is getting free . simple people do not know a fact that when you are not paying for something it means you are a product not a consumer.just like Facebook and Google are not charging us any rupees because we are just a product for them about whom they know much more and they are selling us to a company who want to reach up to us to sell their products.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. With all due respect, I'd request you to do some research before you reply this comment. YouTube doesn't pay you anything unless you've activated Ads on your video. Kindly share a single link to his YouTube video that does contain ads. What I meant is that he's got a very reputable photo sharing website that acts as a primary source of income for him, he doesn't need to charge.

    4. Yes ,his video is ad free. as of now I have no idea how he is making money and utilising his popularity and influence .but don't take me wrong as you don't know when and how a person can use his influence and fame .I have no idea of his strategy but it is not a cheap and easy thing to get fame and future he can use this in his benefit just as WhatsApp was initially free but now its maker is one of the richest man on the Earth.ramdav was giving yoga lessons free but now he is using his influence in selling his product.

    5. Brother, you have got absolutely no idea what you are talking about. Please take your time and read about him a little and then come back to comment. One should have his/ her facts clear before they spat out in public.

  4. What a sad email, so much sarcasm!
    I completely get what you are saying.

  5. Agree with you. Fly high (y)

  6. Absolutely correct... Standing for yourself is v important

  7. I so agree with you Preeti. It is really mean of someone to send such flame mail.
    You are asking for a favour and the person is saying NO. Respect that! As simple as this.

  8. Yes ,you are right.indian society does not respect honest,talented,crative author.if the so called college of high repute refuse to pay money for a author of national repute,but pay a huge money to any singer and cultural artist,this only shows how much our society respect and give value to a person of high literary talent.

  9. Ask colleges and schools to take 5 admissions for free and they will get the taste of their own medicine. I can't write a few words for free, that gets me bread and butter. You are absolutely right ma'm. Do not pay attention to such emails. You have earned this place by doing hardwork. It was not plated.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. fantastic reply.. let them take at least one student for free.

  10. Well said M'am.. you spoke like a true Sagittarian i.e Honest and straightforward :p

  11. Preeti shenoy I don't know english well but I can understand what you want to say...our priorities should be decided.
    You speak well...I am agree with you.
    You have been my inspiration since I watched a video of I am working hard for learning english... thanks a lot

  12. This is the same case as the bloggers and blogging assignments too. Whenever you ask for money - the reaction is that you have done some sin.

  13. Way to stick to your ground and stand up for yourself Preeti! I don't understand this attitude where people want things for free. Even though I am cautious, I get the feeling of "being used" time and again by acquaintances. It's just the norm with our society. And something tells me - if you were a male and this popular, they would be throwing money at you to come.

    Loved this post!

  14. If you visit any reputed college across our country for any events, you'd be assaulted by loud music, pricey lights and elite event performances which are an outcome of a fortune. Now, when it comes to speakers or writers whose chief business is to pour knowledge contrary to pouring entertainment, they are are automatically expected to be generous and are tagged with the word "humble" as though it's their birth right. Now, this is the grim classification in our country. Besides, being humble doesn't mean to work for free.
    Whatsoever, I admire and stand by your every word Preeti mam. Kudos, for bringing this issue out which many people strike off assuming to be a spot on their celebrity image.

  15. I absolutely agree with what you have said. First of all, students and everybody else can read your blog for free. Secondly, whoever is interested in you can know everything by reading your books your blogs and can watch your previous talks on YouTube for free. All these are free. If people want to invite for their college then it is for their personal experience and gains, so the effort of your should be rewarded in the means you wish. One can only share a part of their earnings, but not all. However, free things don't value much. when one is asking something for free means that he is not giving value for it.

  16. So proud of you ma'am.Well said!!
    You don't need to prove your humility to anyone..we know you ma'am and those who don't respect your WORK have no right to question your humility.
    You are an inspiration to so many people out there.You have worked very hard to reach the position you are now and asking for fees for the work you do is your right.Don't pay heed to such emails.
    We love you, respect you and your work and are very very proud of you.
    Way to go ma'am.
    Good night.Keep smiling.
    Eagerly waiting for your next book and your next post as well.

  17. And you look stunning in both the pics.
    The blue one piece pic is just too good.😘😘

  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. Rightly said Preeti.. U should stand out for whatever u feel.. No offenses taken.. Be the person u are.. Let them accept and respect others opinions as well..


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