This is my look back at the recent Hursley Park Book Fair. Many thanks to Glenn Salter (aka author Simon Fairfax) for organising the Fair. So much hard work (and generally unseen at that) goes on behind the scenes to make these events happen. For an inaugural event, I thought the Fair worked well but more on that shortly…
The inaugural Hursley Park Book Fair was held in the IBM Clubhouse on 23rd and 24th June 2018, though I admit the author table section reminded me of an aircraft hangar! Very high ceilings… Having said that, it remained at a comfortable temperature throughout the day, which was nice. You don’t want authors wilting all over the place!
The event was from 10.00am to 4 pm each day and 50 authors took part. There was also a resident artist so you could book having your portrait “done”! I passed on that one… maybe another time!
What was great was that every author had a good sized table. This meant there was plenty of room for our book displays etc. Often it can be a case of having a smaller display or everything looks cramped. Not the case here. This was much appreciated and not just by me. Also there was plenty of space for banners, advertising stands etc without any of that getting in the way.
We were grouped in sections (as close to genres as possible. In my case, as a flash fiction writer, I was in with general fiction. Richard Hardie was in the Young Adult section). There was plenty of room for readers to wander along and have a good look at our stands and see what was on the browsing tables.
In the restaurant and bar, there was a video display of various book trailers. In the main sports hall authors had banners, props (top marks go to the lady with the flamingoes!), and browsing tables. These were where those taking part put one copy of their book out for visitors to flick through. I thought this worked well. It also meant visitors didn’t feel as if they were being stared at by authors all the time either… (It was also lovely when you spotted people looking at your book and then you would feel somewhat wistful as they put it back and did not come over to chat and/or buy! Very much a case of better luck next time here…).
I gave a talk on flash fiction to a small but appreciative audience and included some readings from From Light to Dark and Back Again. Often the best way to explain about flash fiction is to read some examples of it! I was asked a few questions, particularly about the crafting of stories, and while flash fiction is so much shorter than any other fiction, there is no short cut to the crafting of it. You have to edit without losing (a) all meaning and (b) what makes that story work as a piece of flash fiction. (It can be easy to take too much out. Sometimes you are better having a 250 word story which works really well and not try to get it to 100 words, for example).
There was a steady flow of visitors and the line up of laminated, sized up book covers on the way into the hall looked great.
It was lovely to have brief chats with Anne Wan and Felicity Fair Thompson who were also taking part. One of the nice things about attending events like this from the writer’s viewpoint is getting to catch up with writing friends again. Richard Hardie, I knew, was going and he was kept busy, especially during the afternoon, when the bulk of the visitors came in. I signed most of the books I sold (and I always enjoy doing that).
The theatre for the talks had an almost homely feel to it. I believe it is usually used for the IBM Film Club. There was a nice selection of talks and workshops.
People did stop by at my stand to ask about flash fiction. Sometimes this led to sales, sometimes not, but you get to engage with the reading public. It has been my experience to date that people take cards etc and may buy later. But you have to engage first.
A good sign of a book event going well is if there is a “buzz” in the room and I’m glad to say there was plenty of that here. There were lots of good conversations between authors, and between authors and readers, on a range of topics. Mine, naturally, was on the joy of writing flash, and what it is to start with. Readers came back with questions on the challenges of writing it, which I enjoyed answering.
Events like this also give writers the chance to see how our fellows organise their book stands. Ideas for improving our own are picked up this way. I must thank Richard for telling me about the plastic book stands which are brilliant for displaying your books to their best advantage and are also a good way of highlighting other books you’re involved with, materials connected to the books and so on. Simple things like that make a difference to your presentation.
It was also nice that some friends called in at my table to say hello. Non-writers, one of the biggest things you can do to support the writer in your life is to pop into their book events and be one of the “numbers” at their stand. So never think this is a waste of time. It isn’t and a bit of support can go a long way.
I was told by Glenn Salter (aka Simon Fairfax, Author of the “Deal” series – see his website at https://simonfairfax.com/) 276 people visited the event on the Saturday. This is very good for an inaugural event. I hope it bodes well for future HPBFs! I also understand just under 200 came on the Sunday, again very good for a debut. Not sure whether a certain football event drove people to us or kept them away, but all at the Fair had a good time and there was plenty on offer.
I always love it when a wide range of genres and non-fiction is represented at events like these. It pretty much guarantees there will be something to suit everyone going to such things. It is also a timely reminder of just how much wonderful work is out there. Given most writers spend most of their time working at their own desks, it is good to get out there and remind yourself you are part of a wider writing community. Benefits to the populace at large? Well, the one thing we are all going to do is encourage reading and that is never a bad thing.
So, on the assumption there will be a HPBF next year, and I hope there will be, do come along. There was plenty to see, there was plenty of workshops and talks, and maybe consider it as getting in early for picking up book presents for the readers in your life. All of the writers at the Fair would have been (and were) only too happy to help!
Books, given you can read them as many times as you want, do work out at a relatively cheap form of entertainment when all is said and done. Oh and if you want to pick up cards so you can buy for ebook readers later on, that’s fine too. I relish the fact there are so many ways to enjoy a book now – from ebooks to audio to the good old paperback. There’s a format to suit everyone out there too!
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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