The final countdown is on to our inaugural conference 2020: A Publishing Odyssey. So, we wanted to know what people thought different areas of the publishing world will (or should) be like come 2020. First up, we have Kirkland Ciccone on book festivals.
Festivals are everywhere. If you haven’t actually been to a festival, then you’ll probably have seen a poster advertising a line-up for a big event. The big bold brightly coloured thing plastered to the wall across from you on the subway as you wait patiently for a train? That’s a festival poster, of course. Festivals are broadcast live on television, so that you can join in even if you can’t afford tickets or don’t fancy slumming it in a tent. Goodness, the idea of me camping is about as likely as The Smiths reforming for The X-Factor. It has never been easier to participate in a festival – just press a red button on BBC1 during Glastonbury.
I’ve been to several festivals as a performer. I attended the Edinburgh International Book Festival last year dressed as a test card with jeans. I also ended up in Saltcoats for the Tidelines Book Festival, which is a funny story because my mother took me there when I was a kid and told me we were in Spain. I have severe trust issues as a result. And I’ve just been invited to participate at Off The Page, though technically I didn’t say that and YOU DON’T KNOW YET, okay? It is all top secret. I’ve also set up my own attempt at a literary festival in North Lanarkshire called Yay! YA+. I have been both guest and curator at large scale events. One of my friends set up a festival in his garden.
What is the future of festivals? Literary festivals recently came into the headlines when Philip Pullman (a genius) called upon all literary festivals to pay authors. Not all festivals can afford to pay their authors. I managed to secure an amount of money to pay authors for my event, which is geared at teen readers – a much neglected audience who are lumped into the Children’s Book category, though there’s a huge gulf in difference between Meg & Mog books and The Hunger Games.
I was able to sell it as something unique, which is a good way of getting a bit of investment. It was hellish at times. One company wouldn’t fund us if we allied with another company; the first had brand values of healthy living, while the other was a brand with snacks and sweets. You had to learn to tip-toe, which is tough for me because I have size eleven feet and a big pair of Dr Martens. So I totally understand why people could become disheartened. If that isn’t bad enough, it also happens to be a fact that money is very tight these days. The recession has impacted on business.
Can festivals prosper without a huge amount of funding?
I think technology will change the live experience. In the coming days we will probably see the rise of the Online Festival. Ah, but is it a proper festival when you’re sitting in your home eating a bag of Wotsits? It is far more interactive than pressing a Red Button on BBC1 during Glastonbury. If you have several authors, Skype, Twitter, and a cohesive line-up then you also have a festival of sorts. Live streaming and video technology will make a difference. It’ll cut costs because authors don’t need to be paid for expenses. It also allows fans to have adventures close to home.
A brand can easily be created and nurtured online. Now there isn’t a Tweet in the world with the power to make someone rush out a buy a book, but if there is a live author there in front of you, it may make a difference. A personality packed writer will always use social media effectively. For an audience raised on YouTube Vloggers, this seems like a good way to go if you want to target teenage consumers. And you don’t need a rubber wristband! I hate them. My wrist hates them too.
Kirkland Ciccone is an author of weird YA books and a performer with a background in theatre. If you asked him, he would consider himself punk rock not disco. He is also the curator of Yay! YA+ which is a brand new one-day festival for Young Adult fiction. The second Yay takes place at Cumbernauld Theatre in April, with over 200 teenagers booked to attend. His new book North Of Porter is a torrid tale of a teenage boy with a handbag who takes on a serial killer. It isn’t Kirkland’s autobiography.
Book festivals will be spotlighted at our conference on March 18th, with a literary festival panel and keynote from Edinburgh International Book Festival Director, Nick Barley. Book your place over here.