Attending your first Book Festival can be nerve racking. As someone who attended their first book festival
since they were in a stroller this year and was pretty damn successful doing it, I want to give all of my book festival advice so you can be just as successful as I am.
Without further ado, welcome to Book Festival 101 in which I will be giving advice on everything Book Festival related from preparation to attendance.
Today, I’m going to be sharing my advice on how to prepare to be a successful Book Festival attendee, including all of my personal ‘musts’.
Preparation is key to being a successful book festival attendee. Without looking ahead, you’re not going to be able to go to the most keynotes, the most signings, and the most giveaways. And please note that I say “the most” and not “all”. Thinking that you are going to be able to attend every keynote, signing, and giveaway you want is unrealistic at overcrowded, narrow interest Book Festivals (like YALLWest).
So, how do I prepare? Well, as I normally do for out of state vacations through investigation, scheduling, and prioritization.
Investigation is vital for first timers. It’ll help you get an idea of what to expect from the event and what possible publishers or bookstores will be there. Without Investigation, you’re plunging completely into the unknown. Trying to maximize your time while at a book festival while having no knowledge of what to expect before hand is probably not going to be a fruitful endeavor.
1. Check the Festival’s Website
Yes, this is the “duh” advice. All the basic information about parking, location, line ups, ticketed events, and vendors should be there. However, when festivals post this information on their website varies. Typically, parking and location will always be on the site. Information about vendors, speakers, and ticketed events might not be up until a month before the event. It depends on how big the festival is and who is running it.
Now, not all festival Websites are created equal. Some of them will have extensive amounts of information including a history page on how the festival started. Others… well, they won’t be as helpful. Some might even have no information beyond the basics like parking and location. For those ones, deeper investigation is vital.
2. Check Social Media
Checking Social Media is kind of a must. Hopefully, you’ll already be following the festival’s Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Following them will be useful for announcements that happen during the actual festival, but it’s a must before you go. Depending on the Festival, they’ll talk about authors and bookstores attending and other general information.
However, there’s something more important with Social Media and Book Festivals, and that’s checking posts from their tag on social media. In my personal opinion, Instagram is the best one for this.
For example, I will be attending Pasadena Loves YA for the first time this month. It’s a smaller YA Book Festival that mostly draws locals. The lack of “history” and buzz on social media for the festival made me nervous as to what to expect, so I used Instagram to get an idea of the venue, see what previous giveaways people won, and how the overall experience was. All of that is invaluable, yet easy to obtain, information.
3. Check out Book Blogger’s Festival Recaps
Book Blogger’s Festival Recaps are so useful. And no, I’m not saying this because I write them. If you skip all the other steps, I hope you at least use this one because the information is well laid out and you get to really see what the experience is like.
Only getting information from former Festival attendees on Instagram isn’t a good idea. Instagram isn’t the place you can talk about a Festival experience in depth nor is it the place you want to complain about all the things you didn’t like about the Festival. Since Book Bloggers often have strict festival schedules and are usually there to get ARCs, they are always good for tips and will usually talk about how crowded festivals are or how much ARC competition there is.
(Pro Tip: For the Bloggers out there, sometimes bloggers will also talk about how to get Press Passes for certain festivals in their recap posts! I recommend checking out blog posts for festivals you want to attend to see if they’re available. Press Passes come with a lot of cool perks. And bragging rights.)
The style of planning for each Book Festival should be different. I don’t plan for LA Times Festival of Books the same way I prepare for YALLwest because the demographics of the festival are so different. While how exactly you schedule and prioritize should be different from festival to festival, the basic guidelines are the same.
1. Write down all the signings, keynotes, and giveaways you even think you want to attend.
Excuse my long step 1 title. I just think it’s an important distinction people forget to make.
You want to write down everything you want to go to. Make sure you write down the times and days of everything you’re even considering. And yes, even those of the signings and giveaways that are going on at the same time. Don’t do yourself the disservice of picking your “musts” along the way because you might just overlook something great. Give yourself time to mull over everything.
Also, the reality of Book Festivals is that something is bound to go wrong. A vendor will be late, an author’s cat will get sick, or ARCs for giveaway will be forgotten (the last one happened at YALLwest). Or you might get stuck in traffic. That’s life. If you have everything that interests you written down, it will be helpful incase one event gets canceled, you don’t make it, etc. It’ll save you from wasting valuable time trying to find something else to fill your freed up time.
(Pro Tip: Depending on the Festival, you will want to check out the social media of publishers that are going to the Festival to find out about giveaways and ARCs. For example, Penguin Teen posted their schedule for YALLwest giveaways on their Twitter account.)
Being able to go to every signing and every giveaway you want to at a festival, is probably not going to happen. Because of that, you’re gonna have to pick and choose the events that are most important to you.
Some things to take into consideration are:
- How many Books you are okay with lugging around the Festival to get signed? It’s not easy to carry many books around a large venue, nor will it be fun. If you’re debating whether you want to get a book signed by that author you kinda sorta liked, you should probably not bring it.
- Is it a once in a lifetime thing like a signing for an author that rarely does public appearances or comes to your area? As someone who lives in California, I attend a lot of signings. I know that missing out on a author’s signing or keynote to go to a giveaway isn’t a big deal because they will probably have 3 California stops in their next book tour to see them. You might not be in the same boat.
- Do you need 20 ARCs or items of swag from authors you’re not that into? I say this because book bloggers can go overload with ARCs and swag. I still have ARCs I haven’t read from YALLwest in April. If you can read them all, eat your heart out and grab 50 but just make sure you’re actually going to read ARCs or use the swag you just grabbed. But, whoever follows those rules when there’s free stuff. For the inevitable “getter’s remorse”, you can always do a giveaway with the stuff you realized you didn’t want after all.
(Pro Tip: Make sure to keep your pre-prioritized list with you for the reasons I talked about in the in the previous bit!!! You might not be able to attend one giveaway or signing and have to change your plans to your backup giveaway or signing.)