I’ve been a little quiet for the last couple of weeks. Between launching untitled and setting up the last minute details of the Chesapeake Children’s Book Festival, I’ve been a little bit crazed. I took a few days off and also caught up on some work since the festival two weekends ago and now I’m writing my follow up.
The festival was a fantastic success. We had over 2500 visitors and a number of authors completely sold out of books, a few before noon. The way we run the festival, we purchase at least 8 copies of each of the author’s book ahead of time. We do this with money raised by sponsors and each year we figure out how many book we can then give away. This year we gave 300 vouchers to the Talbot County Free Library. They then give everyone who signs up for the summer reading program one of the vouchers. The vouchers can be used to get any book they want, signed by the author.
After the authors go through their initial books they can then sign copies of books they bring and get paid for those books. The authors who sold out quickly went through the books we provided and then all of the extras they brought with them. Any books that were left over at the end of the day were signed by the authors and will be distributed in the community.
Festival authors are usually limited to a maximum of 3 titles. I signed copies of untitled, If You Give the Puffin a Muffin and More Creatures and Characters. I went through all eight of my initial copies and sold extras of both picture books. I was especially pleased that I had return families who had bought my other books at previous festivals. It was also nice to see local friends in the crowd as well as Miss Rosemary, the former TCFL children’s librarian.
My role in setting up the festival has expanded since the first one. I had originally partnered with Marie U’Ren who had an organization called Eventful Giving. Her organization held charity events to raise money for different causes. We approached the Talbot County Free Library to see if they would host and be the beneficiary of any profits made. They were not in need of money so between us we came up with the idea of giving away a certain number of books. Marie handled the fundraising, ordered the books and organized the first author dinner. My part was to get the word out to authors, collect their applications, create the graphics and advertising materials and communicate with the participating authors. The library hosted the event and organized the volunteers and workers. They also rented the tables and tent for the first year when the authors were outside.
We learned from that event that we should bring the authors inside the library. It was very hot that first year and the tent wasn’t large enough to cover all the authors and the over 1000 attendees. For the second festival we crammed about 35 authors into the large meeting room at the library. That year we had more visitors and at times it was hard to get around the room but everyone enjoyed themselves and the authors sold a lot of books.
After the second festival Marie retired and moved away. She found a replacement for our fundraising, Susan Kehoe. The third festival was a bit different. The best weekend for that year was the same weekend as the Juneteenth Celebration at the Academy Art Museum. As it was also the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Douglass we decided to combine our events. We held the Chesapeake Children’s Book Festival in the Waterfowl Building, a much larger space. Our 35 authors fit nicely with plenty of space but with over 2000 visitors I thought that we could not fit back in the library.
So now we come to this year. Sadly, Susan Kehoe fell ill and passed away last summer. We dedicated this year’s festival to her memory. Fundraising for the festival fell to me, with the help of the kind folks at Shore United Bank. I also picked up the task of purchasing books for the festival.It’s been a lot of work but it needed to be done. To solve the problem of a lack of space the library folks suggested we lower the roster of authors to 25. It meant having to turn some applicants away but it worked out very well for the flow of people coming through.
Soon we will have our wrap-up meeting where we’ll discuss what worked and didn’t work this year. I’m sure they’ll be no question that we will have another one next year. For my next task, I’m hoping to try to set up a fundraising committee that can divide the task of raising our budget between about 5 people rather than putting it all on one person’s shoulders. In the meantime a big thank you to everyone who was involved and everyone who attended.