I wrote recently how book festivals seem to be gradually losing their connection with books, authors and readers. Instead they are becoming celebrity festivals who recruit their speakers from TV or turn into writer’s festivals aimed at those who wish to get published.
The fallout from it was significant. One thing I’d like to nip in the bud is the idea I’m calling for the festivals just to support literary fiction. This misunderstanding might be based on the fact they tend to be called literature festivals in the UK. But I’m not saying only Dostoevsky ought to get a gig. I’m suggesting that the march of the celebrity festival is trampling on all authors whose only claim to fame is that they have produced a book – be it sci-fi, romance, children’s literature or anything else, fiction or non-fiction.
But I also thought that, having moaned about the problem, I would like to offer some solutions. I accept the metamorphosis from book fests to celebrity fests is down to money, but I also believe there should be more to book festivals than the bottom line. They should have a strong connection to books and authors as they owe their very existence to them.
The picture at the top of the page is of a festival event which did get it right – the Magic Oxygen event at Lyme Regis Literature Festival which not only launched lots of books but also handed out prizes to their writing competition, which is open again now, for more info click here.
Here are my suggestions on how the Literature Festivals could rediscover their roots:
1. Ensure a better balance in the programme between celebrities and authors
It’s a question of wanting to let the authors back in and seeing it as a priority
2. Source sponsorship for smaller author events
Ok so they might not bring in the money a big TV name does but if some work can be put in to finding sponsorship cash to cover the cost of events involving lesser-known authors then the events can be a success with a smaller crowd.
3. Include support acts
It’s a regular thing at music gigs. The headliner has one or two warm-up bands, they get an audience and a step on the ladder to greater success, the audience gets more entertainment for their money. Why not do this more often at literature festivals? Look for a couple of authors in the same vein as the big name.
4. Develop the fringe
The big festivals do often have a fringe but it seems to be getting cut shorter and shorter. Of course it might not be the best way to maximise the cash, but how about giving something back?
5. Further involve local writers’ groups
And local writers. These are the grass-roots. They might not have the glamour of a TV celebrity or a sports star with a ghost written biog out, but they are the future of the publishing industry.
6. Support the smaller events
Even when I have been invited to read at some of the festivals I’ve often been ignored once I get there. The organisers have better things to do than worry about small fry, so they don’t bother publicising your event, putting it in the programme, encouraging anyone to turn up (even if it’s free) and they don’t even bother turning up to say hi. Typically there’s a text or an email afterwards saying ‘Hope it went ok.’
7. Don’t discount self-published authors
I get the feeling some festivals don’t bother with them, even though some are brilliant and are going to be massive in the future. It’s short sighted and not fair. Take people on the merit of their work.
So there we go – my manifesto for giving a little of the festivals back to us non-famous authors who don’t have a TV show. Is it too much to ask? There are readers who love our work, we may even find more if we are given a platform to do so. And we promise we will come back and support your festival once we hit the big time!
Talking about support – my latest book is just out on Kindle, with paperback available too. If you have enjoyed this post please take a look, try a free sample, and see what you think! To take a look click here
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