I'm not crazy about giving away time. After twelve published books it feels like I ought to be paid for speaking and teaching. Yet more and more I'm learning that what you do for free often pays off best.
A couple of stories make the point: A writers group at Leisure World contacted me to speak at a writers day--the first big event of their new writers club. Nobody offered to pay me, but I agreed to go anyway. I was one of several speakers, and sold a few books--four or five. Not many, but I felt good about the day. I felt I'd really connected with the group.
It seems I did. Weeks later they called me again, this time to give a talk on memoirs. They asked how much I wanted to be paid--always a tough question to answer. How much is too much? But I asked for $75.00, and the club readily agreed. Expecting 20-30 people, I was flabbergasted to find a crowd of over 70. This time, to the group's excitement, I gave away some books--but I also sold about a dozen.
Now the group wants me back again, for two in-depth, all-day memoir workshops. With no fuss at all, the price has gone up to $150 each. Even so, it's not the money that's so exciting, but the fact that this group and I have made an exciting connection. We all expect the best out of each other, and my stints down there have become a lot of fun and not much work. For everything I gave away in the beginning, I've been repaid many times over.
And just today I heard a wonderful story about Landgrove Inn in Vermont--an inn I've stayed at many times and with whom I'm now engaged for my second writer's workshop. It seems Landgrove agreed to host a charity event for a worthy cause, offering not only their site, but also picking up the bar tab. In what could have been a losing event, with perhaps 50 to 100 people, the Chocolate Festival attracted 500 people and earned $30,000--giving the inn free publicity up and down the state of Vermont. For the price of some liquor, they received what will turn out to be a hundred-thousand-dollars worth of publicity. You couldn't BUY an event that attracted so many people from so many Vermont towns. Because of their generosity, little-known Landgrove Inn has suddenly become one of the premier inns in the state.
Whenever I consider the advisability of doing something "for free," I think twice about turning it down. The payoff is sometimes in doubt, and never the reason you do anything. On the other hand, often enough the good-luck gods are right there with a reward.