Thursday, May 16, 2013

How Much Would you Pay to go to a Bookstore?

I'm going to rant a little here today. I just returned from the South West Book Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This is the sixteenth book festival I have participated in since I became a published author. Book festivals are a fabulous place for readers to meet authors and for authors to meet new readers and often touch bases with fans. There are generally some very interesting speakers and lots of things to learn and maybe even some networking going on at these festivals across the nation. I have attended in Los Angeles, Chicago, South Carolina, Tucson, Decatur, and many others. The South West Fiesta in Albuquerque this past weekend was the first one where I was disappointed with the promotion.

This festival had a very poor turnout. I don't know how much advertising the promoters did for this event so I don't know if the public even got the word. But, more importantly, it cost $10 per person to get into the festival. That means a couple would have to pay $20 before they could even see what was inside. In these economic times, I find that outrageous. Very few people in Albuquerque showed up to this event and I can't say that I blame them.

Needless to say, the exhibitors were not happy. Many of them traveled long distances, spent money on hotels, on their booth, and took time out of their busy schedules to make this trip. That's not where my complaint lies, because that's the price of doing business and I can deal with that. What really upset me was that the people of Albuquerque could have had an enriching and fun experience if this had been handled differently. Los Angeles has been doing it for years and providing an incredible experience with the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. No one expected that kind of an event because they have had years of practice, but Tucson figured it out when they started five years ago. They spent a lot of money on advertising, opened the event to the public, and worked hard at getting good speakers that helped to draw the public. Each year they improve on the last, and it has grown into quite a spectacular event. I think the same thing could have happened at the South West Book Fiesta with a little better planning and foresight. They certainly had plenty of good examples to follow. I expect this was the first and last South West Book Fiesta and that's a real shame.

I have never before been to a book festival that charged an entrance fee. It kind of feels like going to a book store or a library and having to pay to get in. I just think a lot of people missed out on a what could have been a wonderful event if it was free. Have you ever had to pay to go to a book festival? Would you?

All that said, I still had a wonderful trip. I saw some old friends, made some new ones, saw a lot of beautiful scenery, and had some delicious food. I'll never make another trip to Albuquerque without stopping at The Range Cafe for one of their chili relleno burgers...the best burger I've ever had!

Teresa Burrell
Author, Attorney, Advocate


  1. How unfortunate! Very few events in which vendors sell goods charge customers to get in. They want people to show up and spend their money on books, art, and whatever. And most writers can't afford to make those trips and not sell enough books to pay the cost. I hope you had an opportunity to tell the sponsors what you thought.

    1. The promoter was there and very visible. I'm surprised he didn't get attacked more than he did. I spoke briefly to him, not about my losses as a vendor, but only about my disappointment for the public. My family is in the event business (similar, but not with books) and I know what it's like to be on the other side. He obviously didn't sell out the venue to exhibitors, the hall could have held twice as many booths as it did, so I know he lost a great deal of money himself. In the future I will not support any events this company does and I have to admit I got a wee bit of satisfaction knowing he lost more money than I did.

  2. Teresa, I heard that about the Albuquerque Fiesta and am kind of glad I never got it together to make the trip.

    Maybe they'll rethink that part of the program.

    The other issue (I heard) was that many authors decided not to sell books because they would have been required to get a sales tax license from the city and felt that was too much of a hassle.

    1. The sales tax license is always a requirement at book festivals. Sometimes they check, sometimes they don't, but vendors need to be covered. Most exhibitors already have one for the state they live in but whenever you travel to another state you need to be prepared. Often there is a city tax that is different so that becomes an issue as well. In Tucson the state license is minimal, but the city license is more expensive. They all just want to make sure they get the sales tax due them. Just another cost of doing business.

      In this case, however, obtaining the license was just another expense since no one showed to sell to.

  3. Unless they had to do this in order to offset costs, it sounds a bit like a case of greed. I'd imagine they take in plenty of revenue through other means. One would also think that with an online retailer like Amazon getting a large part of the market share, events like these would want to keep competitive instead of shooting themselves in the foot.

  4. I think some of it was greed and some of it perhaps just ignorance. This company does other kinds of shows where charging at the door works, (a wine and food show, where a lot of free samples are given away) but you can't do that with a book festival.

  5. How disappointing for everyone involved! Obviously a tactical error that will probably hurt them in the long run. I've been to the Tucson Book Festival and it's just fabulous! And of course free to the public. Some festivals charge an extra fee to see a headline speaker or take part in a workshop, but that's different and makes sense.


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