How to Prepare for a Book Festival
You may have heard of book festivals or this may be the first time the phrase has come across your computer screen. Book festivals are when a number of book lovers and writers alike gather to celebrate literature. It is normally free to attend and there are exhibitors of all sorts along with readings and, of course, books!
Book festivals are something you really want to utilize as a writer. They fall into the category with writing conferences and other literary events. The best part is that even if you don’t have a published book yet, you can still represent yourself as a writer.
This year we have the pleasure of being an exhibitor at the Collingswood Book Festival in Collingswood, New Jersey. We are both completely thrilled and nervous to represent all that is of Writely Me at a giant book festival. As much as we are introverts though, when we are able to connect with others about writing we get really dorky and excited in the conversation.
So, of course while preparing for this book festival we thought of all of you and how at one point of your writing journey you may find yourself in this exact position. So how do you make sure that you are prepared for it? How do you know you are leveraging this experience to help yourself out the most as a writer?
Between the various publishers, bookstores, and other writers that will be at the book festival, you are going to want to create an effective plan to get the most out of your attendance.
Have promotional materials at hand
One of the greatest things you can do for yourself is make sure that you have put together some type of a promotional material to keep at hand. This could be flyers, pens, pins, bags, business cards and that is just naming a few. Now before you get overwhelmed, you really only need one of these. Business cards are a good example of an easy thing to make and keep at hand. Just make sure it at least has your name, email address, and website.
If you want to get creative, you can create bookmarks like we did. The one side can say whatever you’d like and the other side can have all of your information.
The reason have a promotional material is important is because you are going to want the people you interact with to remember you. What better way is there than to hand them something physical to hold on to?
Check out the list of exhibitors beforehand
Normally, any literary event you are planning to attend will have a list of exhibitors up on their website. This is where they will list the names and websites of all the businesses that will be there. In a book festival situation, that is usually authors, bookstores, and writers.
A smart tactic, to get prepared, is to look at the list in advance. Jot down any exhibitors that interest you or that you would find beneficial to visit. An example of this would be publishing houses where you would give your elevator pitch— which we will talk about a little later in this article. Another approach would be connecting with other writers to get advice or find writing communities you could join to help further your growth.
By creating a list of the exhibitors you want to approach beforehand, you are creating a plan that will help make sure that you are using your time at the book festival to your advantage.
Be prepared to network
Yes the one thing all of us writing introverts enjoy oh so much: networking. Unless you are an extrovert, networking can seem like the hardest thing in the world. But, it is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. The great thing about book festivals is that there are so many opportunities to connect with other people.
Now, you don’t want to go into the book festival with the mindset that you are a sales person. You just want to keep an open mind to all of the possibilities. Don’t be afraid to go up to tables that you were eyeing or exhibitors that you planned to scope out. Ask questions and just be you! Just remember to leave your business card before moving on to the next person.
Work on your elevator pitch
Before I touch on this topic I want to reiterate that you don’t want to enter the book festival acting like a sales person. You do, however, want to go in prepared to talk about your book or writing project. This is where the elevator pitch comes in. It’s basically a 60 second proposal or three sentences if written. Here is an example of an elevator pitch below.
Nicole faces the ultimate betrayal when she finds out that her boyfriend sold her into the human trafficking ring. Now she is must fight to survive clinging onto the hope of a unforeseen friendship, but will it be enough?
Do you notice how it is simple and short, yet leaves the listener wanting to know more. This is what you want to strive for with your pitches. Your story doesn’t have to be completed for you to pitch either. All you need to know is what your story is about.
Having an elevator pitch at hand is smart because when you are networking with others the subject of your writing may arise. You don’t want to sound like you don’t know what you are talking about, and you also don’t want to end up rambling on and on because you will loose their interest. The elevator pitch gets your point across in an effective way.
Plan out your social media strategy
Almost everyone uses social media. Whether it is for personal use or professional use, social media allows you to share content with a large audience. That is why you want to create a strategy for the book festival in advance. What does that look like? The best way to set up a social media strategy is to look at it in three categories: before the event, during the event, and after the event.
Before the event is when you are going to want to use build up about you attending. To do that, you want to pick 3-4 days that you are going to post on your social media channels. These posts should include that you are attending the event, what you are representing, and what you are excited about/looking forward to. They are called your “build up” posts because they are announcing that you will be at this book festival to all of your followers and potential readers.
During the event is when you are going to do the bulk of your posts and take a bunch of pictures. If you are a Twitter user, you are going to want to use a website like TweetDeck so that you can live tweet along with the other attendees. These social media posts are going to be more fluid and less planned. Normally, book festivals have their own social media channels and hashtags, so make sure that you are following their pages and using the appropriate tags in your posts. That way the book festival will noticed that you attended and sometimes will even share your posts allowing you to reach a larger audience.
After the event is the perfect time to post a wrap social media post reflecting on how the event went and what you got out of it. Start adding and following people you met at the event and don’t be afraid to tag them in your posts.
Make sure you have enough books
I cannot stress this one enough. If you are an exhibitor or an author attending a book festival, you want to make sure that you have more than enough books on hand. If you don’t sell all your books don’t stress about it. That is books you can use for your next event. This goes the same with promotional material as well. There is no such thing as too much — unless of course you can’t carry it all.
Book festivals are a fun and productive way for writers to take a giant step in their writing journey. By being prepared and entering with an open mind, you’d be surprised what possibilities you may stumble across.