The 2022 11th Annual Florence Festival of Books is over, and now, I can get my life back. It does have a way of taking over between June and September each year.
“Our first time at a book event and we thought this was well done!”
This year, it was a great success! And I’m not the only one who thought so; I’ve included comments that were on the evaluation forms we handed out one hour before closing and picked up just before. That way, we usually get a good return.
I wasn’t sure it would be a success at first. Five minutes before the panel discussion was to start at 9 a.m., I, the moderator, was the only one backstage. But the panelists magically appeared right on time . . . except for one. He had taken ill the evening before and was not there. But another panelist had his script and would do his part as well as hers. Okay! When it was time to start, few people were in the audience. With only an hour, we had to start. So, we did, and it went well for about 20 minutes, then a mic conked out while a panelist was speaking. Matt, the FEC go-to guy for any tech problems brought one up. Okay. Soon another conked out. Then Matt brought up a handful.
Although the audience grew, it didn’t get much over 30. But they were an engaging group. Their questions kept coming until we had to wrap up at 10. So, in spite of a missing panelist, mics conking out, and a small audience, it was a success because we all heard up-to-date info about how to turn a manuscript or print book into an eBook and we all appreciated it! And if anyone still had questions, each of the panelists would have a table during the book fair and could answer questions until 4 p.m.
“I want to thank you for the many young people and others who greeted us when we arrived. Being from out of town, we felt very welcomed and well cared for. Thank you!”
One of the most popular services we provide are the young greeters. These young people, whom we didn’t have set up until just a few days prior, were there and greeted the participants as they drove up. They helped unload boxes, banners, and other table swag. They then guided the participant to the posted table layout, so they could see where they would be and took them there. That way, nobody was wandering around lost or wondering what to do.
Another popular service is the volunteers that could be spotted by their blue aprons. They would answer questions and take over any participant’s table when they needed a break or went for lunch. That way, tables were always occupied.
“I want to compliment you all on a well-organized, friendly, supportive event! All the blue-apron helpers were so awesome!”
We have a central location for those participants who do not have the ability to handle credit cards. That way no sales are lost, and it is greatly appreciated. For example, I have a Square card reader, but I need my mobile phone to use it. On this day, I left my mobile phone at home. I had put it in my purse the night before, so I wouldn’t forget it. But the next morning, I made a last-minute change. I took the important stuff from my purse and put in my fanny pack because then I would have room for my change purse and booklet for recording transactions. But I did not check the compartment where the phone was. Because I didn’t have my phone, I couldn’t take photos or use my card reader. I was bummed! So, I was among those very grateful for the credit card service.
After 11 years, we have worked out most of the kinks and pride ourselves on being well organized. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be problems. Every little while, Victoria, one of our committee members, would come to me with a question or problem, which we would discuss and she or I would handle. There was the empty table of the panelist who could not come. We simply moved the table next to the adjoining one and she spread out her stuff. We never want an empty table.
Then we had an unexpected participant show up who said he had filled out an application and paid, but we had no record and he had not brought his confirmation. Because he was one who had come before, we believed him, and put him at the previously empty table after removing stuff and putting it back. Then there were a couple of participants who kept leaving their table unattended. Later, there were questions about when should we announce this and that, including the door prize announcement, and so on.
“I loved the ability to send people up to the credit card sales clerk as my Square device was not working. Also appreciated the layout and space for the event and individual tables. Many thanks!!”
Because the FEC was going through personnel changes during the summer, during the time of our preparation, there were a couple of glitches. The welcome letter, evaluation form, and small door prize form for the attendees was on the FEC computer, and they needed to be updated and enough copies run off. Well, the evaluation form had the first paragraph with dates updated, but the bottom questions asking about Friday events had not. This year, we were a Saturday, one-day only affair with no Friday events. At least 16 people pointed that out to me the last hour of the book fair.
And the attendee form from which we hoped to gain zip codes and permission to add names to our mailing list did not get used. Another form, not used in years that did have many places listed where they may have heard about the FFOB, was used. It did not have the two items, we really wanted. I was very disappointed when I realized this. What a missed opportunity! Before the event, I did check to see that they all had been run off, but should have checked more thoroughly. At least, the data we did get will help us target advertising next year.
As far as the participants and the attendees were concerned, it was a smooth-running affair. There was help when they needed it, there were many books of many genre all for sale to choose among, and the new caterers outdid themselves with great food being served in the lobby area.
“So friendly—the vibe and energy are outstanding. I’ve been to many book events, have sold more books, but the collaborative kindness here is outstanding.”
I don’t know the total number of attendees. I do know that it was a lot more than last year, but not as many as our highest number years. And I know that most participants had good sales. And what I especially enjoyed was the happy vibe throughout the day from both participants and attendees.
I, personally, had a fabulous time. For those of us who have been every year or even several years, it’s like a reunion. It’s absolutely terrific to see other authors who have become friends. I spent so much time socializing that I didn’t concentrate as much on selling books. Even so, I sold 19. The networking that goes on is one of the real pluses of these types of events.
This year there were several returnees and several new authors—a good mix. One of the new authors told me that the best thing was being in a room filled with other authors! She was positively giddy!
“The panel discussion was great! It was worth the price of a table. And the Keynote Address by William Sullivan was worth twice the cost of a table!! A great day!”
After the book fair was the Keynote Speaker. We only had scheduled 15 minutes for break down and moving everyone out of the display area. The book fair ended at 4 p.m. and the Keynote to start at 4:15 p.m. Not enough time. Next year, I’ll bet we change it to 4:30 p.m.
Before the Keynote began, there was a special recognition given to two FFOB Planning Committee members who would be stepping down from leadership positions. One was Bonnie MacDuffee, who will no longer be treasurer of our umbrella group FACE as well as our committee and me as Co-chair for the past 11 years. On stage in front of a much larger audience than that morning, each of us received a lovely bouquet of flowers and a framed certificate of appreciation. I was totally surprised and loved it! The flowers are on the dining room table, and the framed certificate is on prominent display in my office.
I heard the Keynote Address by William Sullivan was great––entertaining and humorous as we had advertised. I had planned to attend, but had to finish loading up and then gathering the evaluations and attendee forms to tally later at home. When I was offered help to load my stuff into my car, I took it. Then there were a couple of folks I knew, whom I visited with. As they left, a woman walked in wanting to buy some books and was disappointed when I told her that the book fair was over. She was truly unhappy, so I told her I was one of the participants and had some books that I could show her. She gladly followed me to my car, where I opened the trunk and proceeded to show her my books. She bought two, paying with exact cash. We were both happy! Just as I was about to go back in to hear at least a part of the Keynote, the audience started streaming out. I had missed it!
“This is the best book-selling event/venue I’ve ever attended. Thanks for your hard work.”
All in all, it was a great day! . . . I was glad that it was a success, happy that I’d had such a good time, and relieved that it was over! It was the culmination of planning begun in April.
Note: Mark your calendar. Next year, the Florence Festival of Books takes place on September 23, and it will probably continue as a one-day event.