As an indie author, are you having trouble gaining a presence at mainstream literature festivals? Then why not start your own? It may be easier and more successful than you think, especially if you already have strong relationships with potential local partners, as British author Suzan Collins has found. As her latest event gets under way today, she explains how she has gone from founding a one-day, one-venue event to a substantial weekend fair.
That may be easier – and more fun – than you think, especially if you already have strong relationships with potential local partners, as British author Suzan Collins has found. As her latest event gets under way today (9th September), she explains how her event has grown from a one-day workshop to a successful weekend fair.
Why Found a Festival?
Doing book signings can be fun, but they can also be lonely at times. I have used our local art gallery for writing for a few years now and the owners (Richard and Gina of The Coconut Loft Coffee shop and art gallery) kindly offered me a room to house authors and our books. The support they gave me then, and continue to give me, is phenomenal, and Richard became my mentor.
Thinking I could get at least six authors, I thought this was fine. I advertised the date, and at my first writing workshop, where I go through everything from getting started on your first writing project to publishing and marketing your finished work, several writers made a commitment to each other that they would finish their current writing project and self-publish it in time for the pop-up workshop.
I was delighted at this, and all bar one published their books and participated in the pop-up bookshop. I can’t remember how many authors we had in the end, but we were overwhelmed by how many people arrived to see us and purchase our books. The local press also came and did us proud.
Second Event Brings More Success
Following the success of this event, we held another one at the same venue. This was again a fantastic success, so much so that the owners and I agreed that we had outgrown their premises and needed to find somewhere bigger., although they continue to support us.
We then added two additional venues and introduced a national writing competition, publishing the winning entries.
New Format for Further Growth
We wanted our current author events to expand to incorporate all things literary and cultural, and Richard came up with the name East Anglian Festival of Culture (#Eafoc). Once the East Anglian Festival of Culture (#Eafoc) had been announced, it just kept growing. This year’s event, which takes place this weekend (9th-10th September) will be held across seven venues, including two theatres, a restaurant, and a library.
Once the East Anglian Festival of Culture (#Eafoc) had been announced, it just kept growing. This year’s event, which takes place this weekend (9th-10th September) will be held across seven venues, including two theatres, a restaurant, and a library. Interest and participation have already exceeded that of previous years.
We have now introduced a photography competition, on the same theme as the writing competition, with the winning entry being used for the cover of this year’s winner’s publication. This anthology will be released in time for this weekend’s East Anglian Festival of Culture (#Eafoc). Producing an anthology not only encourages writers to write, offers an opportunity to enter a competition. The monies raised from sales and from the entry fee will go to Alzheimer's Research UK.
We may be a small seaside resort but we have great talent.
Benefits for Authors
These author events are great not only to meet readers and sell signed copies but also to network with other authors. I have come across authors, both mainstream and self-published, so intent on making money that they have taken sales from other authors and caused an atmosphere. I’m hybrid, and all authors are the same to me.
Provided an author has a good, high-quality book, they are welcome, regardless of who they are published by.
My philosophy is that if we sell, that’s great, but if we don’t, readers go home with info about the authors, and they may purchase their books online later.
From Author to Organiser
My mindset has had to change from being an author to being an organiser. I still have a stall and have a few authors who are happy to man my stall over the weekend. I still do an author talk, usually on the Sunday when it's more relaxed. And this year I’m dressing up as a cat. Yep! The things an author does…
What's Next for Eafoc?
When this weekend is over, we will start planning for Eafoc 2018.
Future events are planned for showcasing writers' work, supporting their projects and continuing to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK. These will include:
- a ‘pitching to an agent’ session
- a ‘pitching to an editor’ session
- a couple of well-known authors in an ‘Author Panel’
- a critique session and feedback
- an auction for people to bid to have their favourite pet named in a book
- a literary competition where the winners and highly recommended will be included in an anthology and published
- authors reading their work
- recruitment for the Get Writing writer support foundation
OVER TO YOU Have you ever set up a local lit fest or other promotional event for authors? We'd love to hear about it! Feel free to share your case studies and top tips via the comments box.
ESSENTIAL READING FOR ANYONE INTERESTED IN TAKING PART IN LITERATURE FESTIVALS
This invaluable guidebook contains a whole chapter explaining how to work effectively with mainstream literature festivals and optimise the chances for indie authors to be included. It is co-written by two authors with considerable experience of festivals, Dan Holloway as a leading performance poet and organiser of the Not the Oxford Literature Festival, and Debbie Young, founder of the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival, who has also read her work at the Cheltenham Liteature Festival.
For more information and buying links, click here.
This book is part of ALLi's #publishingopenup campaign.
ANOTHER HELPFUL POST TO INSPIRE YOU TO SET UP YOUR OWN LIT FESTS#authors - how to get gigs at more litfests: found your own! Case study with @SuzanCollins. Click To Tweet
Definitely one for the provinces … Hawkesbury LitFest is tremendous fun – but try to interest people in the South who are in easy travelling distance to London, or Oxford (where I am), or to run such an event in such a city – that can’t work. It’s a shame really, as we have so much well known talent that the creativity of everyone else is simply discouraged, and except for music, it is impossible to interest people in believing in the value of their own creative work.
I do think it’s much easier to do something like this in a relatively location which already has a strong sense of community, where you know you have a certain number of local residents who are game to try something new and are pleased to support any new initiative that comes to town/village – which is certainly the case where I live in Hawkesbury Upton, where my own lit fest has grown each year across the three years that I’ve been running it. I think it also helps if the person founding it is already active in the community, as I suspect Suzan is too. I was on the village school PTA for six years, the Village Show committee for 13 years, co-founded the village youth club 20 years ago, and co-founded the vilage 5K Fun Run a few years ago, all of which are still going strong. Experience in running other events is also helpful, as it gives you an idea of what works and what doesn’t – including how to persuade people to volunteer to help! I’d love to hear from anyone who has successful run an indie lit fest in an urban setting. (I know Triskele Books did one as a one-off last year, but that was focusing more on the author community than on local readers.)