Why I Attend Local Children’s Book Festivals
I love going to local children’s book festivals like Pasadena Loves YA. It’s a small event, but mighty in author power.
Now, I have a massive packet due to my advisor at Vermont College of Fine Arts on September 20th. I got me some serious writing and revising to do. So why would I take the time next Saturday to attend this festival? Why should a writer who doesn’t currently have a book to promote spend precious time at an event like this?
The Power of Small Book Festivals
- Inspiration: I look at the authors on the panels. They did it. They got there. So can I. I use the panels as a chance to practice my self-supportive affirmations. I pay attention to my inner monologue, and if any kind of negative thoughts come in, I revise them right away. Yes, I can. I will. I am doing it.
- Panel Tips: Not every writer gives good panel, and you can tell the pros. Public persona is a vital part of being an author, especially for children. We are our own press agents most of the time. Striking the right tone of approachability, cool, humor, subtle self-promotion, and safety is a fine art. Kid lit authors like Margie Stohl, Brendan Reichs, and Veronica Roth have mastered it. I go to panels at book fests to watch and learn, and imagine myself sitting on those panels and being just as awesome as those guys.
- Check Out the Market: What just came out? What did publishers buy about two years ago? What has been done, and where are the gaps? What do the latest book covers look like? What is the copy on the cover? Going to book fests helps me keep track of all this.
- Check Out Your Target Audience: Teen and kid book fans go to these festivals. Many of them get up and ask fun and interesting questions that show you where they’re coming from. Wait on line with tweens and teens for book signings, and you’ll overhear some great stuff. If you don’t have regular contact with the target audience of your books, here’s a way to see and hear them in action.
- Because I love YA, too. I keep lists of what to read next on Evernote, and maybe it’s obvious, but going to book festivals is one way to find out about that book I may not discover otherwise. See below for three great books I wouldn’t have read if I hadn’t gone to festivals.
- Great Topics: Children’s and YA Authors are smart folks, and they care about what’s happening in the news. At kid lit festivals you’ll typically find panels about newsworthy topics: diversity, bullying, abuse, and gender equality. Sure, there are also usually talks on unicorns and magic. Anything goes in YA, and Middle Grade is pushing the boundaries, too, so you are in for some fascinating panel discussions that are fun for writers and non-writers alike.
Great Books I Found at Book Fests
Here are some great books I may not have read if I hadn’t gone to book fests:
A great near-future dystopian sci fi with an awesome romance. Terrific high concept, and unforgettable action from a master.
This heroine must tell the truth to her family in order to get back her power. A dreamy and evocative tale with razor sharp characterization.
The truth is a moving target when hindsight is twenty-twenty. Who are the mean girls, and who are your true friends? This book challenges assumptions.
Book Festivals I Love
If you have the chance to attend any of the book festivals below, do it! These are in my area in Southern California.
- Yallwest: from the amazing folks who brought us Yallfest. Don’t miss your favorite bestselling authors reading their juvenalia. You can pick up some free ARCs here, too. Usually happens in April. Yallfest is in November this year (2017).
- Los Angeles Times Festival of Books: This mammoth event at the USC campus hosts so many panels on kid lit alone, you can spend all weekend listening to your favorite authors. See them all for free, or buy a VIP pass and register for your favorite talks in advance, avoiding the lines. Usually in March or April. I didn’t go this year because Yallwest was so close to it in time, and I know folks at Yallwest. Because I’m fancy like that.
- Pasadena Loves YA: This is the smallest and briefest of the three, and the easiest to get in and out of. Great authors, too. At the Pasadena Central Library, where the architecture is lovely. Happens in September.