With more people relying on the internet to discover a wide variety of subjects, products and resources, one rarely has a need to see a person or product face-to-face anymore. At least, that’s what the internet gurus continue to preach to the masses.
The reality is that people do need human contact and interaction on many levels. Book Festivals are one such interaction for die-hard readers. Yet, it appears that many of these events are not drawing as many people or vendors as they once did. Why is that?
After spending years participating as a vendor, author and as a creator of such events, it has become clear to me that people simply get bored of the same old routine. This applies to the big book festivals as well as the smaller ones. As with any event, people want something new and exciting, a reason for them to leave their homes, spend their money and get something they can’t get anywhere else.
Traditional Book festivals are created with authors who sit behind a table and try to get someone to buy their book, and in most cases, they halfheartedly try. Most book festivals are filled with local authors, who if they have done their job as a marketing person, have saturated their market to the point that there is nothing new or exciting about them. None of this gives people a reason or motivation to stop by and check out the book festival.
Even the book festivals that bring in the big names, are seeing a decrease in attendance and vendor participation. This is due to the high cost of producing such an event. Big named authors expect to be paid for their time, and their cost has to be trickled down to the vendor’s booth fees. These fees then become too hard for people to justify the expense. Small press and indie authors cannot sell enough books to warrant the high cost of participation. But these are the people who must participate at these events if they plan to make a name for themselves. Just doing Social Media or internet based campaigns is not enough.
How can you draw the crowds to an event and justify to the vendors the need to spend the money on a booth fee? This is a multi-point issue that all book festivals have to address in order to stay reverent to the consumers and vendors.
First, book festivals should look for new partners to team up with. For example, art festivals are a perfect combination to work with. Both draw on an audience that generally has money to spend, and is highly educated. They do not compete against each other for the dollar as one is usually priced much more than the other. However, they complement each other, which allows for each to promote and draw from their base, while giving the audience something new to enjoy.
Second, while indie authors and small press will not sell as many books as they would like to at any festival, they have little or no choice but to be present. It comes down to the basic core of marketing: letting people know you have a product, and then getting them to want to buy your product. If authors are not attending book festivals, then new readers will never know they exist. At the same time, they must work on their presentation at the table and not look like a bump on a log, bored to tears who doesn’t want to be there. That’s another article in its own right. They key factor is that an author will never know who they may meet at one of these events, which could then help propel them onto a new level of growth. Each consumer that walks up to their table should be considered as the ONE person, even if they are not.
Finding new avenues to engage people to attend book festivals is a key factor for attendance and participation of both readers and vendors. Working with other organizations can help save money, and draw new attendees to the event, which in effect benefits both organizations. The concept of ‘elitism’ needs to stop on both ends in order to keep their event alive and of value for the consumer. The consumer is already pulled in a hundred different directions, therefore, combining energy and resources gives them less directions to be pulled, and more value for their money, and especially their time. A win-win for everyone.
Third; sponsorships. While companies that make millions from authors continue to charge high fees, or rake in large amounts from the author’s work do not support book festivals to the full extent that they could or should. Amazon is a perfect example of this. They don’t have to, as the authors have given up their power to Amazon and they will continue to take money from authors. CreateSpace, Ingram and, Barnes & Noble participate only in large scale festivals, but do not participate in the more local bread and butter programs. Again, a lack of need to woo the author or the consumer keeps them away.
Book festivals need to find a way to get sponsors to cover the cost of the event so that indie authors pay little to nothing for their space, thus increasing their income potential, and ultimately making them happier to be at the events. Combining forces with other festivals helps rejuvenate each organization, which then creates better results for all parties involved. Teamwork on multiple levels that improve the quality of life for the consumer and vendors should be a key priority!