Neil Gaiman's speaking fee attacked by Star Tribune

Categories: Media beefs

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Neil Gaiman: Worth $45,000?
Sandman author Neil Gaiman is under attack by the Minneapolis Star Tribune for charging $45,000 for a recent speaking engagement at a Stillwater public library.

Under the headline, "One author: $45,000 for an afternoon," the newspaper questioned the  hefty fee for the "fantasy and science fiction writer," claiming that "some tongues in the library community are wagging in astonishment."

Wait, librarians are wagging their tongues? This must be a scandal!

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One of Neil Gaiman's greatest creations.

The story was originally broken by Politics in Minnesota, which quoted one angry librarian wagging his or her tongue, but only after demanding anonymity.

"I am a librarian and on the library side, supposedly, but this makes my blood boil," the librarian said. "This is ridiculous. There are people who need food and who have lost their homes, and this is just plain disgusting."

In response, Gaiman explained his admittedly high fees on the Library Journal website:

Obviously I do a lot of speaking for free. The night before I'd done a pro bono 3 hour reading/Q&A as a benefit for the CBLDF in Chicago, in front of 1600 people, who had paid up to $250 a ticket to attend.

Four days before I'd done "An Evening With Neil Gaiman" internet talk with the Jessamine Public Library for nothing, because they asked me to, and because it was National Library Week (although they sent me a wonderful Kentucky nibbles gift basket as a thank you).

In fact most of the talks and appearances I do are for free.

But if you want to hire me to come in and talk, it's expensive.

My speaking fees are high. I keep them that way intentionally. Here's what it says on my website's Frequently asked questions.

Gaiman was paid with money from the state and cultural Legacy Fund, which is raised through sales and use tax as approved by voters in 2008.

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Death, another of Gaiman's most iconic creations

This isn't the first time the Star Tribune has questioned the use of Legacy Fund money. Indeed, it has become almost as much of a crusade for the daily as their Epic Series on Drunk Driving (Spoiler: they're against it). The Strib has been especially critical of money given to its competitor, Minnesota Public Radio.

Sure, $45,000 sounds like a lot of money for an author, even one as acclaimed as Gaiman. But that's pennies compared to the $791 million Vikings stadium the Star Tribune wants taxpayers to help build.

And apparently, not all the librarians are wagging their tongues. One who was in the audience that day has Gaiman's back:

Pat the Librarian commented:

I deeply apologize to Mr. Gaiman that he should be put in the position to have to defend his fee. The afternoon was magical. He stayed far longer than planned and spoke privately with a large number of people. This funding is meant to preserve our cultural and artistic heritage. Indeed it is experiences like these that create the next generation of artists and writers. No price can be put on such an experience. I have been to many a book talk that had an audience of 20 people and authors received $2,000...the per capita cost is easily comparable when you consider the large and very grateful audience.

Thank you, Mr. Gaiman, for an inspiring afternoon. It was indeed well worth it. And, again, I apologize that you have been put in this position. 

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