Day 16: Appearances, Part 1

There are so many ways to make appearances as an author and the differences in approaching each gig are important, so in order to keep things clear, I’ll be covering them in a series of posts. I’ll include book festivals, school visits, conferences, stores, and libraries and even virtual appearances!
Let’s start with festivals…why? Because I love, love, love book festivals! Imagine, you are surrounded by children and adults who are there because they love books. How amazing is that? VERY!

So here we go…

Book Festivals

I’ve been to many book festivals, and if you ever get invited, go! You know it’s a labor of love for the organizers (I don’t think there’s gold in them thar hills) and more often than not, it shows. Most festivals are free to attend for the public, so authors are usually not paid to go, though my honorarium has been paid in the past. Festivals are a great opportunity to meet and be surrounded by scores of people who absolutely love books. What could be bad?!

Savannah Fest
My special volunteers and me - Savannah Children's Book Festival

Book festivals vary widely in how they’re run. The one thing the organizers all have in common? Passion!
My favorite kind of festival is when …

  • You sit at a table that has stacks of your books and people come by and look at them, talk to you, and buy your book. Sometimes you are asked to do that for the entire day, sometimes for a few hours.Other times you’ll leave your table to do a presentation or reading, then go back to sign.
  • There is time for authors to co-mingle – a definite bonus!
  • Organizers do magic and figure out a way to make sure you have a crowd.

The way they’re run depends on a few things: budget, level of experience and organizational acrobatics, and most importantly, the willingness of organizers to listen to authors’ suggestions for improvement. I know firsthand that the Savannah Children’s Book Festival is one that gets kudos for that openness! I was told by Kyra Teis the Albany Book Festival is just as willing to listen to construction criticism. We all want these events to work, but it’s always hard to hear suggestions for improvement.
It will be a successful festival if the authors feel appreciated—not catered to like a bunch of divas, mind you, but valued. I don’t care if you are the #1 bestseller on the New York Times bestseller list for ten straight years, do not be a diva.
Having said that, it’s always nice when organizers remember that to attend the festival, the authors take time away from their families, their work, and spend money to make the trip. In remembering all that, they make us feel welcome and cherished. The Hudson Children’s Book Festival does a tremendous job of that, putting people up, hosting a party the night before and a celebration after it ends. But just saying thank you for coming is often enough.Hudson Book Fest
Whether the festival is well funded or not, the organizers are passionate about books and reading and literacy, so if you come across one that isn’t up to your expectations or previous experience, keep that in mind. These people are usually completely crazed with details, large and small, so if you didn’t get a welcome bag in your hotel room, a name tag, or even a hello, don’t sweat it!
Most book festivals have some kind of author hospitality suite where coffee and food is available. Every festival I’ve been to is staffed by volunteers—some of the best have been held at schools and have the students as author sherpas, where we’re met at the door with an offer to carry all our stuff (more on what that stuff might be in a future post on giveaways). Not only does this make for an abundance of help for the organizers, but the kids become involved with authors, and hopefully that has a ripple effect to their love of books and reading!
Author and former librarian Wendie Old recounted her positive and negative experiences with festivals:
“Every time one of my books is published by Albert Whitman, I get an invitation to be part of the Southern Kentucky Book Festival—and even to present. However, the publisher does not pay for me to go; I pay all expenses. (A lot of the authors there are sent by publishers who pay their way, however.)
“Other books festivals I’ve had to apply to. The Baltimore Book Festival likes me to come because I’m local and have no expenses. For the Baltimore Artscape, authors have be in an author signing tent. I’ve done this every so often as part of one of the writing organizations I belong to. Several other book festivals have been real duds—either the people didn’t find us authors, tucked away in a church, or there simply weren’t many people attending the festival.
“Many local book festivals expect you to bring your own books to sell, I guess because of dealing with so many self-published folk. I stopped going to those because I was tired of lugging books around and because my publishers weren’t happy about me selling them.
Pros—It’s a nice day out.
Cons—It’s a lot of work for an unknown response. (I can only hope that I get some invitations to speak at schools and to groups because of attending these festivals and handing out bookmarks with my e-contact information.)”

Recent Comments

  • Marc Tyler Nobleman
    April 5, 2011 - 6:42 pm · Reply

    Re: kind of festivals you like…exactly! Best in my experience are the ones where the books are at your table. When they’re somewhere else, it’s a disservice to all involved. Authors can’t shmooze about their books, customers may not bother going back into the crowd to find each author’s table to ask them to sign, etc. Eliminate every possible inconvenience and see sales and smiles increase!

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