So, you’re hosting a book festival/reading/literary event of some ilk and you’d like to invite some of your favourite writers. Follow these ten handy tips to be absolutely sure they don’t come back again next year.
- Approach your writers with an introductory email, something along the lines of, “hello, I’ve read your book. It is great. Will you come to my festival?” Do not mention money in this email. Mentioning money might appear vulgar. Instead, force the writer to ask if there is a fee involved. Writers really love having to ask if they’re going to get paid for their work.
- Do not offer accommodation. Instead, expect your writers to get up at the crack of dawn, (even better, the night before), travel for eight-ten hours, perform, then travel home that evening. If pushed for accommodation say, “sure, you can sleep on the plane/train/Aircoach.” Writers are at their most creative when suffering from sleep deprivation.
- Do not pick your writers up from the station/airport/ferry terminal. Instead, expect them to navigate the local transport system with all their books in tow. This is especially fun for writers when visiting a country where they do not speak the language. It is the sort of experience which generates “new material.” Point this out to the writers if they complain. Say, “sure, you’ll get a good story out of this, if nothing else.”
- Expect your writers to do many, many interviews promoting their appearance at your festival. Schedule these interviews at the most inopportune moments; ideally on the phone, during particularly tunnelly train journeys. Email your writers regularly to say ticket sales aren’t going as well as you’d hoped, perhaps it is because the writers you’ve ended up with aren’t as famous as the writers you’d initially hoped to feature. Insist that your writers do even more interviews, push the event on their own social media platforms and create Facebook invites. Offer no extra money for these services. Instead, say, “it is raising your profile as a writer. You should be paying us for all this publicity.”
- Make sure your moderator doesn’t actually read your writers’ books. It is better by far to interview someone based on a cover blurb and an Irish Times article hastily scrolled through five minutes before going on stage. Writers really love these natural, spontaneous interviews.
- Make your writers walk for approximately a mile, upstairs from the Green Room to the stage, so they arrive in front of the audience out of breath and somewhat confused as to where they are. Make them read immediately, at length. Ideally shine huge spotlights directly into their faces.
- Do away with the sofas and comfy chairs. Whilst on stage, most writers like to perch awkwardly on a high bar stool, thigh muscles burning as they strain to stop themselves from slipping off their seats mid-reading. Encourage your festival photographer to take pictures of your writers looking awkward on stools. If such pictures cannot be taken, capture your writers with their mouths hanging open, mid-read. Everyone loves to see themselves featured on a festival website, looking like a cross between Jabba the Hutt and a trout.
- When on stage, place the moderator in the centre of the panel. Writers should be seated to their left and right so any attempt at natural conversation involves constantly glancing over their shoulders like a tennis umpire. It is best to ensure the moderator always has their back to at least one member of the panel.
- Provide one microphone only, on a lead. Writers love scrambling amongst themselves for the solitary mic. Conversation will seem that much more natural if approximately two thirds of it falls outside the audible range of anyone not seated in the front two rows of the auditorium. Scrambling for the solitary mic is often the only exercise writers will get during festival season so be sure you’re not depriving them of it.
- Despite telling your writers that the event will last for around an hour, be sure to let the q and a session run on for a fully fifty minutes. Do not attempt to curtail the ‘less of a question, more of a statement’ questions or the man who wishes to read aloud from his own self-published novella. Tell the particularly crazy question askers where your writers are to be found later this evening. Restaurant. Pub. B and B, (nb. include street address and room number). Encourage audience members to continue the conversation post-event.