Monday, February 19, 2007

Are book festivals beneficial to authors?

I was talking to a writer friend last week. She asked me if I planned to be at any book festivals once my new books come out.

I did a dozen or so festivals when the poetry book was released and did a few more when the memoir came out.

I came to the conclusion that some festivals are beneficial; others aren’t. It depends on the type of book you have, and your readers.

I was the first poet to present at Girlfriends’ Weekend two years ago. This festival is put on by Kathy Patrick. Patrick is a book dynamo. The festival was held in Jefferson, Texas that year. My plane landed in nearby Shreveport and tornado watches were being issued. It rained cats and dogs on one of the days. But the gathering was definitely worthwhile; I sold books and had a room full of readers come to hear me. The thing about Patrick is she attracts a diverse sort of reader. I had a ball. She and her Pulpwood Queens are a large network of book clubs; they kicked off Good Morning America’s book club.

State festivals and city festivals don’t impress me very much in terms of benefits, but the exception to that is the Texas Book Festival. I guess they just do everything bigger down there. Last year Amy Sedaris, Gore Vidal and Frank McCourt were there. Not many festivals can lay claim to an assembly like that.

Many state and city festivals have volunteers who select the authors, and those volunteers may or may not be well read. Or they may invite their friends who write books. It’s a luck-of- the-draw kind of thing. I told my writer friend to ask other authors about any festival she plans to be part of. And ask how many books they signed.

More valuable to me were book signings in stores and the many programs I did for groups and schools. I met all sorts of readers who recommended my books to other readers. Plus you want as many sales as possible to go through stores. The Internet also has a big impact on my readership.

It pays to do your homework first. Doing the author tour is tough enough as it is.

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