Let’s judge a book by it’s cover.

You know the old saying “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” words of wisdom that we’ve all ignored at one time or another. And not just with books, right? It’s a great metaphor and it often makes sense, yet I find myself making decisions on “the cover” of things from wine labels to situations.

It appears that Minnesota has found itself in a bit of a “judge a book by it’s cover” situation over a recent appearance by acclaimed author Neil Gaimon over an appearance in Stillwater for Money for Club Book which was paid for by Legacy funds.

Strib reports

Librarians defend use of Legacy funds to inaugurate Club Book series with bestseller Neil Gaiman. The metro-wide program was started to expose suburbia to authors of national acclaim… Fantasy and science fiction writer Neil Gaiman’s speaking fee of $45,000 for a recent four-hour appearance in the metrowide Club Book series has some tongues in the library community wagging in astonishment.

Let’s start with the Legacy Fund, it has been a classic case of judging a book by it’s cover since day 1. Everytime a news article comes up about the Legacy funding being used there is at least a minor kerfuffle. Public money is like that, even when we agree we want money spent we often disagree on how or when it should be spent.

When it comes to the Legacy Fund most of it’s supporters and many of it’s detractors had preconceptions on how the money should be spent.

Now with the Gaimon situation it seems the issue isn’t that money is being spent on a literature series, but rather the amount of money spent on one author with Gaimon’s appearance taking up nearly a third of the fund for the Money for Club Book series.

Personally I understand that some authors will cost more than others and they’ll also have a much bigger draw, but in this situation I have seen estimates of 500 people attending. At $45,000 for the event, that means the fund paid $90 a ticket for the pleasure of Mr.Gaimon’s lecture.

I was going to attend, but I had plans that day. Were you there? If so, what did you think? Either way, let’s judge a book by it’s cover.

I am leaning towards the side of “it’s no big deal”, kudos the the library system for bringing in Mr.Gaimon and kudos to Mr.Gaimon for getting a big pay day. It’s a tough literary world out there and big paydays are a rarity for authors.

Now I’ve read reople generally speak at 150 words per minute and there are 60 minutes in an hour which makes 9,000 words per hour or 36,000 words per the four hour commitment. That’s about 1.25 per word Mr.Gaimon was paid.
Does that mean if he spoke in all 50 cent words he would have been over payed by 75 cents a word?

Just kidding, Neil. Love ya’ man.

Readers decide.
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3 Comments so far

  1. Sanden Totten (unregistered) on May 7th, 2010 @ 9:24 am

    Interesting break down. One other point I would add is that having Neil Gaimon kick off the series accounted for more than just his speaking engagement. You have to factor in all the extra press and attention you get when you have a world class author like that. So it would also be good to consider that some of that $45,000 went to boosting the overall awareness and prestige of the series, like money for a marketing budget would.


  2. David (jacc) on May 7th, 2010 @ 9:30 am

    That’s a great point Sanden, soft costs are always difficult to account. E.g. you’d also have to account for the time and money spent promoting and recruiting. None the less, I’m still in the camp that it wasn’t a bad deal. Full Discluse: I own a first edition Stardust.


  3. ken (unregistered) on May 7th, 2010 @ 6:27 pm

    I think this is exactly the type of thing Legacy money is supposed to support. I wonder if those that are angry realize the money would have been spent on something else they may oppose just because it’s art,literature, or a field where communists can freely assemble.



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