Last week author Hope Clark suggested (in print! in public!) that book festivals might not really be all that great for authors.
Having worked a couple of festivals myself, I’ve thought the same thing.
Book festivals obviously are fun for the attendees—lots of people show up. Festivals probably are great for boosting the sponsors’ community outreach numbers, too. I wonder, though, just how cost-effective they are for the author in terms of sales, visibility, and networking v. the time and energy invested in prep work, travel time, and being there.
My most recent book festival experience was last year at a local college. The table I helped staff was halfway down a long corridor that branched off another corridor that led to the area where the main events took place. If memory serves, a whopping three non-staff people stopped by during my shift. I was there on behalf of a writer organization but the people at other tables in the corridor were authors hoping to sell their books. They had similar numbers of visitors, and zero sales. I’m told that Saturday was a little better, but Sunday was dead, too.
Admittedly, my own experience is limited to a statistically insignificant sample, and and I’m sure the location of our table was factor in the poor experience. I also suspect there are festivals out there that are more author-friendly. However, Hope Clark has a lot of experience with author events of all kinds, and her column echoing my own thoughts led me to wonder if anyone, anywhere, has done a Return on Investment (ROI) study to see if these events make sense for authors. While it’s nice to be recognized as a Local Author, warm feelies don’t pay the phone bill. There are more effective, less time-intensive ways to increase your local visibility and network with other writers than a festival.
It seems to me there’s a master’s thesis in here somewhere, or at least a survey one of the larger writer organizations could take on. Hard data sure would be helpful for planning one’s marketing strategy.
If you’re an author—or a reader who goes to these things—what has been your experience with festivals and other big-buncha-authors events? What works for you? What doesn’t?
If you missed the link to Hope’s newsletter in the first paragraph, click here. Scroll down one screen for the discussion in the “Editor’s Thoughts” column, just below the ad. Subscribe to her newsletter while you’re at it—it’ll show up in your email inbox late Friday afternoon (depending on your time zone) and it’s a great inspiration for weekend writing.
© 2014 Anne Bingham and Making It Up as I Go