Driving back from the Penfro Book Festival yesterday, I started thinking about the people who go to literary festivals.
Readers and writers, it seems to me, go to literary festivals for very different reasons. Readers have an uncomplicated time of it – they’re there to listen to and chat with writers they like or writers who are new to them; to meet other people who share their attachment to a particular genre of fiction and to generally immerse themselves in literature.
Writers are there for more pragmatically economic reasons. We go to literary festivals to network. (And, possibly, once the networking’s been going on for a while, to meet up with friends made during the networking process. That’s what I’m hoping, at any rate.)
To me, going to literary festivals as a writer seems to be the bookwriting equivalent of touring a small band round pubs and supporting bigger bands in slightly nicer venues. It’s how writers get noticed, how we get known. It’s how we find our way on to the radar of influential book bloggers and where we get to meet delightful people who we’ve followed on Twitter in the hope that some of the magic will rub off, or at least that their followers will.
But for somebody who writes books set in a very specific area, there’s a whole extra layer to networking. If you can get a buzz going about your book in the area in which it’s set, then that buzz might translate into the tiniest hum elsewhere; and that hum might be picked up and amplified in other areas. Enough buzz, enough hum, enough amplification and you’ll sell sufficient copies to ensure that your next book is seen as a worthwhile investment. Because that’s how it goes. If your sales figures for Book #1 aren’t good enough, Book #2 simply won’t make it on to the shelves. Not unless you publish it independently and put it there yourself.
I’ve been trying to sound the very first note of the buzz this weekend in the Teifi Valley – in north Pembrokeshire at Rhosygilwen Mansion which was playing host to the Penfro Book Festival. Rhosygilwen is a nineteenth century gentry mansion that was re-built in its current form (the photo below) in 1836 so would be one of the mansions known to Harry Probert-Lloyd, my Teifi Valley boy.
It was great to meet people who are doing cultural things in the Teifi Valley and to be able to tell them about the series. Now, I need to put more notes into the buzz over the next few months before the series launch in the spring. I’ll be writing press releases, begging spots on local radio and trying to get booked to speak to WIs and local history groups.
And, all the while, I’ll be on Facebook, Twitter and the website, buzzing, buzzing away.