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Book Marketing: How To Start A Genre Festival – Case Study Of “Crime At The Castle”

Book Marketing: How to Start a Genre Festival – Case Study of “Crime at the Castle”

Head and shoulders photo of Wendy Jones

Scottish crime writer and all-round powerhouse, Wendy Jones

ALLi's #PublishingOpenUp campaign, calling for a level playing field for authors of all kinds, includes the recommendation that indie authors should be embraced by literary festivals on an equal footing with trade-published authors.

Scottish crime writer Wendy Jones describes one way of making this happen: by founding your own festival.  And she's done it in grand style, with her new Crime at the Castle event, bringing together a stunning line-up in a prestigious setting. Whether or not you're a crime writer, her festival provides a great model for authors everywhere in every genre. Over to Wendy…


It all starts with a close encounter of the fortuitous kind. Well, it actually starts with an idea, in my case: I think I’d like to have a crime festival called Crime at the Castle and hold it at Glamis Castle. For those not in the know, this is the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and the current home of The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. A trip to visit the Royal Robes exhibition led to a meeting with the events manager, and I pitched my idea. A couple of meetings later and the festival was a goer. The date chosen was 24th February 2018.

crime at the castle logo

Here are my top tips on how you can achieve a comparable event on your own territory and in your own genre.

Tip 1: Just ask

When you do, magic can happen.

It was decided that for the first year we would keep it to Scottish authors, so the next step was to approach these authors. The Scottish Crime Writing community is awesome, and everyone I approached said yes. I think the appeal of the Castle was irresistible. This led to a line-up of authors who include:

  • Val McDermid
  • Christopher Brookmyer
  • Denise Mina
  • Michael J Malone
  • Sandra Ireland
  • ALLi members Chris Longmuir and me, Wendy H Jones

There are several others, all with a pedigree in Scottish Crime Writing.

Tip 2: Mix it up

Approach a mixture of superstar and emerging writers. Make it different and keep it interesting.

Whilst I founded the festival, three people have been involved in putting it together. No one can work alone, and the Castle staff have been superb, as has Suzanne Milne, a friend from Angus Writers Circle, of which I was chair at the time of setting up the festival. Three members of the circle are speaking at the festival, myself, Chris Longmuir and Sandra Ireland.

Tip 3: Give a voice to local talent, and remember no man, or woman, is an island

We can’t go it alone.

The decision was made that all the main writers would be interviewed by the emerging writers.

The emerging writers would also have events of their own where they would talk about themselves and their books. I think the prize for the most innovative event title goes to Sandra Ireland – From Grime to Crime, her story of moving from cleaner to crime writer.

There are also four intimate writers' workshops, with a maximum of 14 students in each group. This allows for interaction and feedback from the writers.

Tip 4: Plan for a mixture of different events

This ensures there is something for everyone.

Tip 5: Keep the writing workshops small

This makes them unique and more desirable.

Tip 6: Start approaching sponsors early

Sponsorship is key to ensure that the event not only is paid for, but profitable. We made the decision to target sponsors for specific areas. This is working well, and sponsors are coming forward. We also decided to bring one specific person on board to approach sponsors. This removes the burden from the festival organizers allows them to focus on other things.

Tip 7: Start small and work your way up

My biggest tip for anyone thinking of arranging any type of book festival, is to go for it. Follow your dreams and you never know what might happen.


It has been an absolute blast arranging this. I have found out, yet again, that people are genuinely lovely and happy to help and be involved. This year the festival will be one day only, but plans are in place already to expand this in 2019. Lunch is included in the ticket price, which has been kept deliberately low. The venue is unique, with all talks taking place in the rooms of the castle, and with book signings and a bookshop in the crypt.

If you want to know more about the event you can do so on the castle website here.

How to organise your own #litfest - with Scottish crime writer @WendyHJones #publishingopenup Click To Tweet

OVER TO YOU Have you set up and run your own litfest? We'd love to hear about it!

From the ALLi Author Advice Center archive

Author: Wendy Jones

Wendy H. Jones is an award-winning Scottish Crime Writer who lives and sets her books in Dundee, Scotland. She is also an International Public Speaker talking about writing and marketing. Killer’s Crew, the first book in her DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries was the Winner of the Books Go Social Book of the Year 2017. The Dagger’s Curse, the first book in her Young Adult mystery series, was a finalist in the Woman Alive Magazine Readers Choice Award 2017. She has signed a publishing contract with Malcolm Down and Sarah Grace Publishing for the first book in a children’s picture book series, based on a true story about a little Buffalo in Scotland. The first, Bertie’s Great Escape will be released late October 2018. When she’s not writing, Wendy spends her time travelling the world. She is also President of the Scottish Association of Writers and co-founder of Crime at the Castle, a Scottish literary festival held at Glamis Castle Scotland. For more about her work, visit her author website: www.wendyhjones.com.


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