Yes, we plan to have it, so mark your calendars. It will be September 17-18, one week earlier than it normally takes place. Despite my protests, we were bumped by a large event that the FEC has been trying to host for several years.
Yes, we plan to have it on this our 10th milestone year. When Connie Bradley and I first started with the FFOB back in 2011, we thought if we got 20 writers to sign up, we’d be thrilled. Within a week, we had 20, a couple weeks later 40, and before long we had 60 authors and publishers. It was a success from the get-go, in spite of us not knowing what we were doing.
It truly was a steep learning curve! We assembled a wonderful planning committee and we all learned as we went along. The first week, Connie and I decided we needed sponsors because we had no money to work with. So, we hit the phones and within a half hour had $600. We thought we were rollin’ in dough! Fast forward to 2019––we received $7,600 from sponsors. We now have levels of sponsorships, materials with info, meetings with individual sponsors––just a much more professional operation. That first year, we didn’t pay much for the use of the FEC. I think, they thought that first year was an experiment to see if it would work. Today, we pay the normal rate, and we pay for advertising and marketing, for flyers and posters, a Keynote Speaker, supplies, and more. I think our budget was around $8,000 last year. The FFOB has become one of the major events at the Florence Events Center.
Yes, we plan to have it, in spite of the pandemic. By September, more people will be vaccinated and, hopefully, numbers of new infections will be way down. In some ways it will be like our first year. There are a lot of unknowns. How much accommodation are we going to have to do because of the pandemic? Will any authors and publishers be willing to be inside for a prolonged period? We don’t even know how many tables we will be able to set up to meet social distance guidelines. Will the public attend an indoor event?
We normally start planning the first of April and have applications available mid-June. This year we stalled as long as we could, trying to decide to have or not to have. The co-chairs and a few other committee members had some phone and email discussions and decided to go for it with pandemic accommodations as needed.
The planning committee’s first meeting via Zoom took place on May 11 and we will start accepting applications shortly after July 4. This past week, three committee members with tape measures planned to walk through the FEC’s flat floor with last year’s table layout, making necessary adjustments for social distancing. They will come up with a new table layout. Then we will know how many tables we can have. Then we will know our limit of how many applications we can accept.
There will continue to be no charge for the book fair. And new this year, THERE WILL BE NO CHARGE TO HEAR THE KEYNOTE SPEAKER. It will still be at 7 p.m., and tickets will be needed because seating will be limited. We will probably have to block every other row and have empty seats between groups in the other rows. Our Keynote Speaker this year will be Melody Carlson, one of America’s most prolific romance and teen and tween writers. She has sold millions of books. She has more than 250 novels to her credit as well as a few Hallmark movies. She was on our Friday afternoon panel discussion in 2018 and has attended FFOB several times. We are thrilled to have her as our Keynote Speaker.
As to the panel discussion, it will take place as usual from 3 to 4:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon, but we won’t have the same intimate setting where both audience and panelists were on stage. Because we have to consider social distancing, we will use the whole theater with some rows and seats blocked off. We don’t have the panelists lined up yet, but we are working on it.
Yes, we plan to have it because we can’t abide the thought of not having it . . . two years in a row. It will be the same, yet not the same. At this point in time, we have many questions. In some ways, it is like that first year where we didn’t know what we were doing. So, we will be adaptable and adjust as the Covid guidelines change and the risk levels rise and fall. Masks or no masks, vaccine passports or no vaccine passports, who knows! What we do know is that the Florence Festival of Books is going to take place on September 17-18, one week earlier than usual. So, mark your calendars now. See you there!