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Building a Book Festival

Last weekend was the inaugural Great Carson City Lit Fest, a true celebration of the arts, with the focus on books, authors and literacy. My dream is to make this one of the premier book festivals in this country. It's going to take some time to accomplish that, but you have to start somewhere, and you start by going for it.

I've attended a lot of book festivals, from small local events to major festivals like Texas and Miami. While I enjoy the big ones, I prefer the more intimate feel of festivals built by librarians or bookstores, with the help of authors and publishers. Our first year was intimate, indeed. Okay, small. We had some 1500 visitors, spread out over two and a half days. And, while we would have preferred twice or three times that number, it didn't happen this year.

That definitely was not the fault of the authors who participated. When I reached out to my publishing community, several "name" authors jumped right in. Now, the goal is to sell books. And, while books were sold, they weren't sold in the quantities that any author would hope for. But you know what? Despite that, several of these huge names promised to come back next year because of the energy we share when we all get together, and also because they really, truly want this event to succeed because it is needed here, and because it benefits Ventana Sierra, our nonprofit helping at-risk youth into safe housing and college. (More on this soon!!)

I'm going to say something now that will probably piss off a few people, but I don't mean to be nasty. The few authors who came up to me, irritated about the turnout and promising "never to return" were all self-published, and hoping to sell dozens of copies of their books. I understand the need to market your books, however you're published. But the truth is, without graciousness and networking in a positive manner, that's not going to happen because the publishing community isn't about one person. It's about all of us, supporting each other.

When I invited authors to participate, I wanted this to be a venue for local authors, as well as names. I will continue to invite those authors, who must realize that a book festival isn't just about selling books. It's about networking. Making friends. Helping each other within our careers, as my amazing cadre of author pals has done for me, and I for them, in whatever ways we can.

This is how you build a book festival—one year at a time, learning as you go and making new connections, which we did. Many, many connections, from marketing people to local bookstores to teachers and librarians, eager to help us grow a community of readers here in northern Nevada, and build the Great Carson City Lit Fest into an event that will draw crowds from across the state and even from neighboring states.

Wait till you see what we've got in store for next year!!


Jun. 12th, 2014 10:18 pm (UTC)
Love this, and it reminds me of YALLFest in Charleston. That's a great turnout and it'll grow even more in years to come. And that sucks that those self-pubbed authors aren't going to come back (although, with that kind of attitude, it is for the best). Even if I was self-pubbed, I would be happy to be selling any books and just to be in the whole atmosphere (and signing alongside some of my favorite authors that inspire me (like you!)? Priceless, really.). I love attending book festivals and being a part of the community and supporting each other; it's just fun!