The tide is turning: festivals campaign update

9 March 2016

We have updated our Minimum Practice Guidelines for literary festivals.

Since publishing our survey and guidelines last year, we’ve received more feedback and information from authors and festivals and we have responded by revising our Minimum Practice Guidelines.

One particular issue of concern that was raised repeatedly was ‘exclusion’ or ‘exclusivity’ clauses which forbid authors from taking part in other events within a particular time frame or area. Our Council member Joanne Harris recently pulled out of a festival because of such a stipulation, she told the Guardian:

The exclusivity clause is always a problem, because if you are on a book tour you don’t want to be told you can’t do another event in that city or region or even the whole country

We spoke to Harris and others and have now added a section in our guidelines about exclusion or exclusivity clauses:

We have seen a worrying trend for festivals to demand that an author does not appear at another festival or event within a specified distance and time period – sometimes as much as three months. Such clauses should be avoided as they are unnecessary and unfair; there is no reason to believe other events have an impact on ticket sales and such restrictions may prevent an author from undertaking a tour. If you do wish to impose an exclusion clause then your fee should compensate the author in full for the lost opportunities.

We hope you will share and the updated guidelines, we will be issuing them to all our festival contacts. We are also continuing to meet with festival organisers. Our Chief Executive spoke about the progress being made:

It does feel as if the tide is turning. We’ve had a really positive response from most people we’ve been in touch with, including festivals, publicists, authors and the public. As well as alterations to policy and agreements to consider payment we’re seeing a real change in attitudes, and an affirmation of the principle that authors are worth valuing – there is still plenty that needs to be addressed but that is key.