Saturday, 17 December 2011

Authors v Book Festivals

Two articles about book festivals, book signings and book events generally caught my eye this week: one was in the Winter 2011 issue of The Author magazine, by Simon Hoggart, parliamentary sketchwriter of the Guardian, and another, by gardener and garden writer Anne Wareham, was in today's Dec 17 2011 Daily Telegraph. Simon Hoggart's piece begins: 'The worst literary festival I ever attended...' and continues describing a whole catalogue of snubs, parsimony on the part of organisers and - crucially - failure to sell more than a handful of books at a variety of book festivals, including Edinburgh. Anne Wareham's piece lists a whole year's worth of travel to promote her book, including an even worse catalogue of humilations and pointless excursions to bookshops for signings where nobody came, and 'appearances' where nobody asked any questions. According to Simon Hoggart, what makes up for these shortcomings are two nights with his partner at the organisers' expense in beautiful surroundings (such as Keswick) and delicious meals with the other interesting people- such as other writers. Interestingly, this is what Anna Pavord cited in her message accepting an invitation to be part of our May 26/27 2011 Beyond the Garden Gate event: what a treat it was to be wined and dined with other authors at a Scottish castle at a book event in the Borders. All this gives one pause for long, hard thought. Simon Hoggart winds up with: Festivals are fun, and for real writers (as opposed to us journalists) they're a chance to get out of the lonely study and meet other writers. But they couldn't exist without us, and it's about time the performers laid down a few reasonable but clear ground rules.' I have been offered the hospitality of The Author's columns to write a reply in their next Spring 2012 issue on behalf of book event organisers, so watch this space.

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