Why Literary Festival Organisers Are Killing Their Events

Dawn Bates Why Literary Festival Organisers Are Killing Their Events

Attending a literary festival in England before I headed to North America for the next leg of my global book tour, I looked around the auditorium and realised that I was the youngest attendee by at least twenty years.

My age?

45 years old.

Having arrived here in Canada, I followed up with the emails that had been sent to bookstores, libraries and the festivals which held author talks, workshops and readings, and the response I have received has been in some ways rather surprising.

With declarations of “Canadian Authors Only” “Traditionally published authors only” and “Authors with agents only” one cannot help but wonder why the event managers are not keeping up with the times, and realising the world is smaller than ever.

Yesterday in a LinkedIn post, I reworded a few of the rejections I’ve received as a British, self-published author who also publishers other authors to the following:

“The Festival features Canadian writers only.” became “Foreigners not allowed.”
“Canadian authors only.” was turned into “White authors only.”
“Only authors published by traditional publishers accepted.” equated to “No entrepreneurs allowed.”

Now if the events managers posted the re-writes on their websites or wrote them in their rejection emails, the uproar that would follow would soon have those in DEI throwing their arms up in disgust; and what surprises me most of all is the fact that Canada prides itself on being ‘inclusive’.

Back in August of 2022, The Guardian shared an article by Sarah Shaffi asking the question “Are literary festivals doomed?”  which highlighted the return to outdoor events post COVID and how organisers needed to get more savvy when it came to pricing, ticketing, line-ups and venues.

But it isn’t just those aspects of the events that need to be addressed. It is the inclusion of people from different ages, different genres, self-published as well as traditionally published, and as I am finding, including authors from overseas who will no doubt bring in a different crowd – possibly those who are travelling overseas, have emigrated or who just want to read literature from a different cultural perspective.

Having read many books by Canadian authors, I can clearly see the differences in style, culture, locations around the world written about, not to mention the various sports, foods, phrases and the politics.

It has been wonderful to learn about Canada through the authors storytelling, which is one of the reasons it is essential that event organisers open their minds and their doors to international authors.

By banning self-published authors, or those published by small boutique publishers , the event organisers are missing out on the most entrepreneurial and driven authors out there on the market.

It seems that the money from entrepreneurs is good enough when it comes to sponsoring an event, or giving away prizes, but the talent of authors who possess the skills, confidence and drive to invest in themselves and their own success is still not quite good enough for the elitist snobs in the literary world.

And elitist snobs they are, either that or they are intimidated by the fact that aspiring authors are now refusing to be dictated to and robbed by the traditional publishers of their voices, control of their books and stepping up to achieve success on their own terms.

Now some, may see this as a sour grapes article because the literary festivals here in Canada are refusing to accept an international author as a speaker, workshop facilitator or guest panellist, but when we consider the fact that international authors bring different viewpoints, experiences and insights to the locals to consider, it begs the question of why would the organisers wish to rob the local authors, readers and aspiring writers of tapping into new networks, ideas and information?

We then have to look at the age range of the literary festivals. Why are those in attendance more often than not those in the more senior years of their lives?

Is it because younger people do not read? Of course not!
Is it because younger people do not know about the events? Most likely.
Is it because younger people are not interested in events which are aimed at the older generation? Again, most likely the case.

When attending an event with the older generation of readers, younger readers are gifted insights into a different way of reading, a depth of understanding of the same book that not many younger readers have access to, mainly in part due to the wisdom and perspectives that come with age, but also because reading on a deep level is a lost art form.

Students in schools these days are not taught to see the many layers of a story, to pick up on the subtle nuances of the texts they are reading, and nor are they reading to analyse and connect the texts to aspects of their own lives, futures, or communities.

Reading for many of the younger generation has become a thing to just get a pass mark in their exams, rather than an enjoyable hobby or learning, healing, or meditation practice.

The same goes for many writers these days. They are not writing to take readers on a deeply layered journey of self through the eyes of the protagonist or antagonist, or the carefully woven golden threads of the rich tapestry of information within the pages of the books.

Many writers, especially those in the world of business have a single focus: To use their book to promote themselves and their services, rather than inform, educate, and empower on a deep level. The book is the loss leader, the lead magnet to being hired or a course made up of workbooks with pages of lines and 1/4-page selfies of the ‘author’ – and mostly written by a VA or these days AI.

To attend a literary festival is a joy when they are done with an open and inclusive mind, a chance to learn, discuss and share a love of knowledge, comprehension and of course books.

Meeting and networking with fellow book lovers of all ages and nationalities should be something to look forward to, as well as meeting authors who wish to meet fellow readers – because as we know, the greatest authors are the ones who are also the biggest readers.

One thing is for sure though, if the literary festival organisers do not start including international authors in these times of nomadic business owners and individuals, or putting on events which appeal to those in their twenties, thirties, forties and fifties, there soon won’t be any literary festivals to attend,

… just those overcrowded, impersonal international book fairs where everyone is either pitching or being sold at, the elitist cliques of the publishing world look down upon everyone, and where the same old faces and names sit upon the expert panels.

It is time for the bibliophile world to shake off the dusty jackets and embrace the brave new world of authors.

Don’t you think?

*For those interested in writing a book, book a discovery call with me to discover the best options for you and your vision moving forward. You will leave the call with ideas, inspiration, action points and a much clearer idea of your author life and journey.

Thought-provoking content is what Dawn is known for, as well as her non-stop travel around the world by sailboat and her trademark giggle. To learn more about Dawn, visit www.geni.us/dawnbates.

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