I'm really not sure what I expected at the Baltimore Book Festival ... more well-known authors, more freebies, a new car. Nevertheless, I did expect a little more. I learned, however, a few things to be prepared in greater detail for next year:
1. Check the schedule: I had seen a brief schedule, but I didn't bring it with me, nor did I attempt to obtain one at the festival. There were a handful of things, including a tour of the Peabody Library, that I wish I had attended.
2. Get there early: There were a couple of bargain-book booths, but by the time I went by them, they were already packed. It was tough getting around everyone.
3. Volunteer: My experience would have been better had I been involved, whether with an organization or as an individual. I'll look into that for certain.
In general, I think there were two main reasons I was disappointed. First, the last even similar to this I went to was Book Expo America in New York. There were tens of thousands of people and exhibitors in NYC. It's like when you have the greatest slice of pizza ever baked, then a week later, you have a piece that's pretty good. In the past, you would have thought that piece was great, but having tasted pizza from heaven, you're comparing against that instead.
Secondly, I was turned off from the beginning about the book festival due to the prices for individual authors. The price was $75 for just one day of the event. Although the book festival doesn't take a cut of your earnings, unless you can sell a lot of books, it's tough to make a decent return. I spoke with one author, who said he had sold three or four books. The area for individual authors was pretty small, in my opinion. There were 15-20 a day.
To make the authors' area better, I would recommend charging a smaller fee for exhibitors (maybe $20) and also taking care of the payments. As it stood, purchases could be made only with cash or check. This was a huge disadvantage to other booths that had credit card processing. Also, I don't understand why the author space was as limited as it was. They should open up additional space within the constraints of the festival area. After all, isn't the event about books?