Monday, September 15, 2008

Why I say no

I'm saying no more and more to things these days. It doesn't mean I don't like you -- I probably do! -- but way too often these days I get asked to do events that pay very little (or nothing) and yet require me to commit to being in Toronto (or somewhere else) on a specific date many months in the future.

For instance, back in January 2008, because it was a friend asking, I agreed to an event at one of Toronto's universities for October 2008. Said friend's email had noted, "There'll be an honorarium of $250, which I know isn't much -- but it'll just be one evening."

But now the event has been canceled (a fact that I only learned because I followed up yesterday).

The dang thing is, for most of this past year, while planning other trips I've had to work around that date in Toronto. For instance, since agreeing to the above, it turns out that in early October, I have to be in Vancouver just before this agreed-to event, and in Edmonton just after it.

Now, Toronto / Vancouver / Edmonton / Toronto is 9,000 km (and three flights). But Toronto / Vancouver / Toronto / Edmonton / Toronto is 16,000 km and four flights -- and I ended up doing the latter itinerary to accommodate this event; the $250 fee I lost when the event evaporated was inconsequential, but I racked up much greater airline bills trying to work around the date in Toronto I'd committed to (and thereby hugely increased my carbon footprint for October).

So, forgive me if I say no to your low-money or free event, no matter how far in advance you ask me. Even if your event is not going to be canceled, for sure, for sure, you're still asking me to lock in a date, which will certainly be awkward for me, given my extensive travel schedule, and may also mean I have to turn down a lucrative keynote or other opportunity for the same date should one come my way -- and that's a major part of my business.

So, many thanks for thinking of me, best of luck with your event, but -- sorry!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


At September 15, 2008 7:00 PM , Blogger H Don said...

Not like I get a lot of those requests, but for me, my response would be that if I'm doing it as (essentially) a favour for you, then we're doing it on my terms. That is, I'm not planning it ahead, but if I end up having the time then, I'll be there.

Ok, maybe a flat-out no ahead might be nicer over all.

At September 16, 2008 10:14 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

The flat-out no IS nicer, Don. Usually, people want to advertise the event (or are choosing not to ask someone else who might come instead); they need to definitely know if I'm coming (even though they all reserve the right to cancel).

My speakers' bureau requires a 50% deposit on booking me -- precisely to make people think twice about whether they're really, really, really going to go through with the event. :)


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