Sunday, March 2, 2014


Decatur Book Festival Tops in the Nation but there's always room for more

Motto: Writers write.
Showing our authors the best of what our area offers encourages them to write of what we know – i.e. the Panama City area has the most beautiful beaches in the world, the finest accommodations, the best restaurants, and premier cultural events to entertain and educate every palate. 
Participants in Books Alive: 
Book Bloggers (example of a book blogger:
Book Clubs

(Note: I am an author who has attended many stellar festivals during the past couple of years These are ideas I have observed in action or think might improve these events. Since these might work for other book festivals I post this on my blog.) I am particularly interested in Books Alive in Panama City because that is where I spend a lot of time these days and have seen what a wonderful book festival that is. Sharman)

Planning for the next event must begin immediately after the reports from the committees on what worked and what did not work are in on the last event.

Chairperson: Shall oversee the event checking with the chair of each committee to ensure that all is proceeding according to schedule. Issues invitation to event to authors/agents/editors/book bloggers. Arranges for and co-ordinates with treasurer for W6 forms to be included in author correspondence and presentation of honorariums. Officers (Chairperson, Vice Chair, Secretary and Treasurer) meet regularly to review progress of committees. Negotiates for venue.

Book Selection Committee: Festival Chairperson heads up this committee. Committee reads and considers books submitted by authors through the website application. Committee includes librarians in the different genre and others from the community and Foundation board. May request video of presenter to insure author interest to those who attend Festival. Selects agreed upon number of authors in varied categories and genre. Presents email Word document report to chairperson three months prior to the event. 

Agents/Editors Invites book publishers in surrounding states (i.e. Florida, Alabama and Georgia) to attend the festival. Should agents agree to come, co-ordinate meetings of attendees who wish to make a 3 minute presentation of their COMPLETED novel to a participating Agent and/or Editor. 

Vice-Chair: Will serve as contact person for all participants. Will email participants with form to fill out regarding all needs: projector, wifi, transportation, accommodations, and will therefore be the liaison communicating these needs to the chairpersons of the different committees. Include a W-9 form so author may be reimbursed to be mailed to the Treasurer. Vice chair will then keep a record of each communication with committee chairs and authors in order to double and triple check before the event. MAKES SURE EACH PARTICIPANT HAS A PACKET WITH INFORMATION, SCHEDULE AND TICKETS TO EVENTS. All has been clarified as to events free to presenters and which a spouse must pay to attend.

Treasurer of the event handles the Reservations marking the seats in the selected presentations on a chart much like the one used by the Civic Center to reserve seats for events for those who choose to register online for a $5 fee. Might consider using the Square (or some form of credit card capability) on the IPhone to charge and email receipt. Registration ends 1 week before event and all remaining seats will be free as available. Should the reserve seat attendee not be present 5 minutes before the event the seat is opened for others. Treasurer reimburses authors with honorarium and travel expenses. Works with Book Signing and Moderators Chairperson on ordering and reimbursement of books for Festival.

Secretary will decide on which size room the presenter will need keeping early sign-up response in mind. The facilities at local universities are usually most accessible to those who attend these events. One would think an event of this type would be partially sponsored by the university so that the cost of using the facility would be waived (to encourage reading and writing, a university goal. Chairperson will have negotiated this.). Many festivals of this sort are put on by the Education department of universities. For example: University of South Florida and University of Central Florida and  Involving the education department of the university brings an added cadre of volunteers and participants to the event.

Should an event prove popular enough, additional time will be set up so more who want to hear a certain presenter may have that opportunity. Will take notes of meetings. Formulates schedule of event for publication. 


Website: People plan ahead to attend these events. Getting the website up and active is critical to success. Plus EVERY GOVERNMENT AND VISITORS WEBSITE SHOULD LINK TO THIS WEBSITE.1. Page for author to request invitation to participate in Books Alive. Include blank for name of novel, publicist’s name, address and email, publishers name, address and email, whether or not author would like to be an AUTHOR IN THE SCHOOLS
2. Selected Author pages should be set up providing ALL INFORMATION for presenters (housing, transportation, events, will tickets be provided to lunch, events, etc and will significant other be required to purchase ticket (provide link so that such purchase may be made), schedule of all events for authors 
3. SCHEDULE OF ALL EVENTS should be posted on website 6 weeks prior to event. 
4. Include biographies of all authors
5. Online signup for events and sessions with $5 registration fee to reserve seat for event. Remaining seats will be free to first come. Also offer opportunity to purchase ticket online for Keynote address and special events. 
6. Web page and Fee for Reservation to participate in Agent/Editor meeting
7. Hyperlink to area hotels with special event pricing for those who wish to attend the Book Festival. Make sure hotel is on Trolley (public transportation) path.
8. Contact information should be easily accessible
9. Trolley information should be made available because some attendees and presenters may choose that mode of transportation. 
10. Effective festival websites

Publicity Committee: All who have previously attended events should get a schedule and order form in the mail and by email six weeks prior to event. Newspapers within 100 mile area should be provided PR materials and a telephone follow up. Schedule television and radio interviews. Incorporate Twitter, Books Alive Blog with guest hosts, and Facebook Page for 2015 Books Alive. Have ALL Books Alive participants invite their Facebook friends to the event 6 weeks ahead AND send a reminder 2 weeks ahead. Presents email Word document report including copy of PR materials to chairperson four months prior to the event. Billboard for Books Alive? Articles in Atlanta, Birmingham, and Tallahassee papers. List with Community Affairs on Cable networks. Insert info sheet into property tax or utilities bill. Alert Senior Citizens Center on Beach and Snow Birds. Sign up information included in Community Service Brochure through Gulf Coast? Presents email Word document report to chairperson one month prior to the event. 

Fundraising: City, County, Beach, Visitors Bureau, Corporations and Individuals. Might find sponsors for individual events. Present email Word document report to chairperson one month prior to the event. 

Keynote Speaker Event: Acquire the Keynote speaker. Assign a host or hostess to squire our special guest around showing them the best of the area. If possible assign our keynote a private condo or beach house. Arrange the venue for the event (select the food, table arrangements, CHECK SOUND SYSTEM TO MAKE SURE SPEAKER CAN BE HEARD IN THE REAR OF THE AUDITORIUM) Present email Word document report to chairperson four months prior to the event. 

Other Possible events to co-ordinate with Festival. Restaurants in area may volunteer their facility as a venue. Emphasize benefit to restaurant for publicity and author exposure:

High Tea and a Toast: Romance Writers Share Readings of Romance  High tea provided by local tearoom with hot tea. Open bar for wine. Listen to Romance Writers speak on writing romances (4:00 Saturday afternoon?) Hats encouraged.

Murder Whodunnit: Supper event arranged by someone in an local theatre group in which participants will solve a crime and Mystery writers will discuss writing fiction (Thursday or Saturday evening)

Book Signing and Moderators: Chairperson co-ordinates with official bookseller at event to make sure author’s books are ordered and available. Check and double check with publishers that each author’s books have been sent and are on hand TWO WEEKS ahead of the event. Arrange area with tables for book signings. Moderator will see to the needs (bottles of water, audio visual needs of the author in the assigned presentation room and will introduce the author. He/she will accompany author to book signing. Presents email Word document report to chairperson one month prior to the event. 

Hospitality Committee: Arrange formal event for which tickets will be sold for a limited number of guests to visit with authors to be held in a very nice home of one of the event’s supporters/Arrange informal Saturday night event for the authors to be held in the home of another of the event’s supporters. Presents email Word document report to chairperson two months prior to the event. Hospitality Room for authors

Authors Hospitality Baskets – Gift Certificates, Free pass for the Trolley service. Restaurants who wish to offer gift cards to each author or contribute as many as they can to include in a basket from which the authors may draw, Activity venues (Gulf World, Miracle Strip, Golf Courses) Presents email Word document report to chairperson one month prior to the event. 

Housing: Arrange with the nicest accommodations (i.e. on the Beach) to offer our authors accommodations. Presents email Word document report to chairperson two months prior to the event. Co-ordinate with Vice Chair. 

Transportation: Trolley? Bus at central location? Individual volunteers? Pick the Author/Agent/Editor/Blogger up at the airport if need be. Arrange for transportation to and from events should need arise. Presents email Word document report to chairperson one month prior to the event. Co-ordinate with Vice Chair.

Exhibit Space—Limited spaces for exhibitors (publishers, authors, booksellers, etc.)  Set up gourmet coffee bar as an added fundraiser. i.e. to be set up inside at a table lining the walls of the Foyer at FSU.

Public Vote for Self Published Books Let the public have a say in the self-published books presented to the book selection committee. List those submitted on your Festival Facebook Page, through your website, on twitter and request a vote on those books whose authors you'd most like to hear. Cookbooks, nonfiction, local history, gardening, genealogy -- you might be surprised! While generating interest, you might also introduce a new, important voice into the literary mix.

Local authors- You hope that people will come from all around to the event. Travelers want to know about the area they are visiting. Find some way to showcase local writers at this event. You have spent lots of time, money, and effort to advertise this event and bring people in to enjoy it. The same time, money and effort will not be spent on a separate event. Do not discriminate against local authors by segregating them to a separate event. Weave the best (determined by the book selection committee) into the program and provide a special area to highlight local authors in the exhibit space. You want them to succeed!

In addition, local authors may make your best volunteers. They love books and want to meet published authors! Draw also from area Friends of the Library and the Junior Leagues.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Bookstores: Remaining Relevant in an Increasingly Electronic World


Remaining Relevant in an Increasingly Electronic World

Sharman Burson Ramsey

Two years ago Mercer University Press published my first historical novel, Swimming with Serpents, and I began a journey into a whole new world. Holding the hard cover copy of my first novel was like holding one of my children for the first time. A dream come true. I, having deemed the time and people important enough to write about, thought others would be eager to read it as well. That was when the real world entered along with the realization that no one would ever learn of that time and those people if I did not become involved in the marketing and public relations of that novel.

Enter my friend and publicist, Kathie Bennett of Magic Time Literary Agency, who immediately put together a tour of festivals and book stores that opened the door to friendships and experiences I had never before dreamed. I traveled to book stores where not even a poster advertised my presence and no one showed up. I visited book stores that hosted luncheons for me to speak to a large, engaged group. I made presentations at Festivals where rooms were comped at very nice Bed and Breakfasts, hotels, and motels.

Before getting my books published I was involved with the Friends of the Library in raising money for a new library in my hometown of Dothan, Alabama. Our First Wednesday Author Event met at a local restaurant and we requested a $5 donation to the library to be added to the cost of the meal ordered by those attending. At my request, the owner of several motels in town comped a room for the author and we managed a $50 honorarium for the speaker who also sold books after the program. I also took the author to the local TV station to speak whenever possible, expanding the visibility of the author who honored our small town by giving us the gift of their time.

I recently presented at Books Alive in Panama City, a festival with which I hope to become more involved so that I can apply some of what I have learned both as a host of authors and an author myself to building an even more successful book event. Some of the points on organizing a festival might also apply to bookstore author events.

Two points I want to make are so obvious it seems almost ridiculous to have to mention them. WRITERS WRITE and BOOKSTORES AND WRITERS HAVE A SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIP.

  • WRITERS WRITE novels, blogs, travelogues, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, websites, etc.
  • Publishing houses have cut back on their advertising dollars and writers must now foot the bill for their own marketing.
  • Bookstores need books that readers will read to keep their stores in business.
  • Authors need bookstores to promote their books, build interest in an author’s work, and keep readers reading so they can keep writing.

How can this symbiotic relationship be enhanced to the benefit of both the author and the book store?

  1. Bookstores could sell members of the Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Tourist Bureau on the benefit of hosting writers. A writer comes not just to the bookstore, but to community. It is to the benefit of the entire community for to offer authors complimentary housing, trolley, bus, and museum tickets, tours of the city, gift certificates to favorite local restaurants be used during the trip or to bring the writer back to the city. Writers love local color! What better publicity could a hotel, restaurant or town get than to be mentioned in a novel, on a blog, in a local, regional, or national magazine?

  2. Plan an author’s visit to a bookstore enough in advance so that the event can be listed on government websites and appear on digital signs at schools, tourist centers, and government agencies that advertise cultural events as well as through store newsletters and email. Author events benefit students, readers and aspiring writers. You never know when that personal contact might actually be the spark that ignites a career for the next John Grisham. Industry is attracted to communities friendly to the arts.

  3. Think beyond book clubs to organizations like civic organizations, ladies clubs, historical societies and genealogical societies to connect authors with readers. (I have found genealogical and historical societies to be most receptive for Swimming with Serpents and In Pursuit.)

  4. Independent stores might join forces once again calling upon a popular 19th century phenomenon to rekindle an interest in the arts and learning. Chautauqua might once again  provide social and intellectual events that bring together people who enjoy prose, poetry, and nonfiction of all types. Authors could travel a circuit visiting Independent Book Store events letting the publicity of one benefit all and in the process build a greater audience.

Ignoring this potential, cities and towns lose out on the opportunities for the publicity and good will hosting writers can bring. Cassandra King visited in the Highlands and found inspiration for Moonrise. My own novel, In Pursuit, was inspired by living in South Alabama and North Florida and developing interest in the history of the area.
Bookstores have the potential to build Community, something sadly lacking in the world today.

  1. Bookstores can be a gathering spot. Book clubs sponsored by bookstores bring people into the store and provide opportunities for friendships and intellectual challenge. They need not be limited to best sellers. Topics such as the Civil War, Local History, Victorian or Georgian Romance, Jane Austen, Harry Potter, and Beatrix Potter would attract different groups. Target ages as well as interests. Wine and cheese, tea and scones, or Kool-Aid and cupcakes could be provided.

  2. Develop a relationship with book bloggers and book clubs in your area. They will help publicize your events. Invite them to every author event. A personal relationship between author and blogger can help the bookseller sell books.

  1. The Movable Feast at Pawley’s Island, a collaboration between Litchfield Books and Art Works providing literary luncheons for the large number of retirees and permanent residents, is a perfect example of successful partnering to bring people together and enhance book sales. By visiting different restaurants, they also managed to keep some of them afloat during the off season as well demonstrating the benefit to a whole community.

  2. If the patron cannot come to the store, perhaps the store must visit the patron in the brave new world of books. Hosting book clubs at senior citizens homes and author events at retirement villages might have potential.

  3. Introduce e readers to the older generation. E readers are light enough to be held by those afflicted by arthritis, enable the reader to increase the size of print to be more easily read, and provide sufficient light so as not to demand more light in a room that may be shared. If the bookstore has developed a relationship with the reader a sense of loyalty to the bookstore will have the reader buying e-books online through KOBO with the bookstore getting a percentage of the sale.

Networking is critical to success for a bookstore, an author, and a bookstore’s customer (both adult and student) who aspires to write. By partnering with the schools and universities, bookstores can assist in making authors accessible and encourage young writers.

Bookstores perform a public service by bringing the writer and the reader together.