Deciding on the Intended Audience and Recruiting Presenters and Exhibitors

The majority of book festivals do not limit themselves to one select audience or genre so that there is a broad range of presenters to entice attendees to want to come to them. Once your planning committee establishes the intended audience, (which for the purpose of this toolkit is not going to be limited to a select group or genre), then the committee chair responsible for securing speakers will start contacting authors, illustrators, and so on to secure them for the festival. The planning committee should be helping this person with potential contacts and individuals that the members know personally or professionally. Plus the committee chair should also rely on his or her committee members to reach out to possible presenters including a keynote speaker if one is being sought for the festival. Your presenters should include authors and illustrators from all genres and for all ages, publishers’ representatives (editors, graphic designers, and publicists), and others. Genres or areas to consider are mystery, science fiction, fantasy, cooking, romance, history (both historical fiction, biographies, and non-fiction works of historical events,) adventure, humor, sports, graphic novels, and so on. Some of the ways to find presenters are by contacting:

  • Publishers
  • Local bookstores
  • Area colleges or universities
  • Local literary or cultural organizations
  • The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)
  • Local historical societies or sites
  • Area art museums

Once you start booking speakers, those individuals may know of other people you can contact as well. After you have your presenters set, you will need to create a book stock form for each one so your festival bookstore can have their books available for purchase and autographing. A sample book stock form can be found in the Sample Forms/Templates section of this toolkit.

Securing exhibitors or vendors are an excellent way of bringing in revenue to the book festival, as each one should be charged to participate in the event. You can determine how you want to structure your vendor fees by looking at your cost for renting tables and chairs (if you are not getting them for free) plus the cost of the amount of space needed for them at the site. Vendors can be food oriented (if allowed by the site), crafts and jewelry, booksellers (exclusive of the festival bookstore), publishers, local organizations or businesses, colleges or universities, and so on. Your bookstore vendor (whether an independent bookstore or a chain like Barnes & Noble) will be generating income for you as well since it is customary to give you a percentage of the profits from the books and other items sold at the festival. Normally, you would not charge your festival bookstore for the tables and space it uses there.

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