How to make yourself attractive to literary festivals

I’m Bob McDevitt and currently I programme
three different literary festivals. They are Winter Words in Pitlochry, Bloody Scotland,
which is a crime festival in Stirling, and Aye Write!, which is a much more general festival
in Glasgow. I think one of my tips for pitching to a festival
is to try and think really hard about not only why someone would want to read your book
but why someone would actually want to pay to come and hear you talk about or read from
that book. Now, things to think about are: is there an
interesting back story to how the book was written, are you basing it on some personal
experience, something from your own life that makes the book particularly interesting, or
are you telling us some brand new, hitherto unknown, facts about a subject, and thinking
about whether your book lends itself well to, say for example, an illustrated talk or
lecture – that kind of thing works very well. Pitching with a chip on your shoulder, kind
of saying ‘your festival has never asked me to come and I’ve been going for 10 years’
just doesn’t play very well with the programmers. Be polite and positive where possible. Book festivals are always looking for good,
reliable chair people to moderate the events. If you’re an author it’s a really nice way
to get started at a festival. I myself really like using authors and journalists to chair
other authors because they understand the psyche, they understand the mind of an author
and they understand the process of writing a book so they’re very good people to chair
events,. I think that’s quite a nice way to get your foot in the door. Something I’ve seen quite a lot of recently
is authors, groups of authors, packaging themselves together as a pre-packaged event. So, for
example, we had at Aye Write! last year an event called Dangerous Women which was three
crime writers who put themselves together and go on the road together, they all know
each other, they’re all friends, they’ve got nicely worked out banter and stories, so from
my point of view, it was a very easy event to programme. Those kind of events work really
well because, as I say, you’ve got people who are friends and the event tends to run
very smoothly. And also because you’ve got three or four writers, there’s a nice, broad
base of support from their readers. A good tip these days is to really emphasise
your experience, so if you’ve done festivals before, you’ve had either good reviews for
the festivals or good pairings, saying something like ‘I did Edinburgh last year with this
author and we had a really nice rapport, it went really well’, that works very well. And also don’t underestimate your social media
presence. So if you’ve got lots of followers on Twitter, if you’re very active on Facebook
or Instagram or anything like that, that’s the kind of thing that a book festival organiser
can really use, because they know that when it comes to selling tickets for your event
we’re going to have a good base, a good platform, on which to build for tickets sales. So don’t
keep that kind of information quiet.

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