Organizing a Book Festival: A Guest Post by Vanessa Barger

{All pics from the Hampton Roads Teen Book Festival}
Today, author Vanessa Barger has stopped by to talk about organizing a book festival. I can only imagine all the work that took! But what a cool endeavor to undertake. Here she is, to tell us all about it:

First, Thank you for having me out to your blog! I really appreciate it!
So, in case you didn’t know, I’m here to talk about creating and putting on the Hampton Roads Teen Book Festival! The event went well – let me say that first off, and offer a huge thank you to all the amazing authors who came out, to Books-A-Million, and to the Virginia Beach Public Library (especially my contact, Martha Hewitt!)
The idea for the festival came about because in my day job, I’m a technology education teacher in a high school in Hampton Roads. I also run a Young Writers club. I’d been looking for writing events to tell my students about and/or be able to take them to, but honestly, there’s not much on the east coast, at least in our price range. So I decided that it was time Hampton Roads had its own festival. We have a lot of writing and writers down here, but there hadn’t been anything specifically geared for teens. So after going to the Hampton Roads AuthorFest at the Central Library, I thought I’d contact them and see if they’d be willing to host it.
That’s where things started.
I put out a call for authors interested in coming and got some amazing response. I never would have thought so many people would put out the time and money to come to a free event that they weren’t getting paid for. But they did, and I shall love them forever for it!
I knew I wanted authors, I wanted someone to sell the authors’ books, and I wanted panels and workshops and such. So I went about contacting local booksellers, and after a rough start, the Landstown Commons Books-A-Million in Virginia Beach came through and were the friendliest, nicest people to work with. We did have some snafus, but they were great about trying their best to work them out, and now I know what to look out for next year.
The biggest challenge in the whole thing was probably getting the word out. The authors were amazing and extremely flexible and helpful. Getting the word out was harder. Since the library was giving us the space for free, they posted to their events page, but that’s all the publicity from that end. I wrote emails to ever librarian and/or English department chair of every high school (and some middle schools) in the Hampton Roads area that I could find. Hopefully they don’t want to kill me for that.
I made a website, a printable flyer, made a brochure for the day of, setup Survey Monkey’s for attendees and author feedback, and put the word out on the local events pages for the state, and local news channels. I sent out information to anyone I could think of that would spread the word.
Honestly, the only money there was to spend was what came from my own pocket, so advertising was the hardest bit.
We had a decent turnout, considering how close to SOLs (that’s what Virginia calls their state testing. Go ahead and laugh. We do.) and the end of school it was. I think it was a success for being the first go around. The attendance was between 45-75 (we think) and we sold some books. With better advertising, I think it would be much more well attended. Possibly a change in date too.
The authors were fabulous and I cannot begin to thank them enough.
Like I said, this was a starter year, and I learned a lot. I’m definitely planning to do it again next year. I’ve already contacted a possible organization to partner with and I’ve redesigned the website and I’m plotting away. Anyone who knows me will tell you – I don’t do anything by halves. So next year will be amazing, or there’s no point in doing it. ☺
I’ve already got a dedicated domain name and email address, and I’m compiling lists. So if you’re an author and you want to attend…. ;)
I’d be happy to answer any questions you have as well! And if you were there, feel free to leave a comment and tell us what you thought!


To view more of the festival visit

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Vanessa Barger was born in West Virginia, and through several moves ended up spending the majority of her life in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She is a graduate of George Mason University and Old Dominion University, and has degrees in Graphic Design, a minor in Medieval and Renaissance Literature, and a Masters in Technology Education. She has had articles published in Altered Arts Magazine, has had some artwork displayed in galleries in Ohio and online, and currently teaches engineering, practical physics, drafting and other technological things to high school students in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. She is a member of the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and the Virginia Writer's Club. When not writing or teaching, she’s a bookaholic, movie fanatic, and loves to travel. She has one cat, who believes Vanessa lives only to open cat food cans, and can often be found baking when she should be editing.

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  1. Sounds like a great event! That makes me wish I lived in West Virginia!!!

  2. I would have gone! I def admire Vanessa, I wouldn't know where to begin or I'd be too overwhelmed to try!

  3. That sounds like an awesome event! Vanessa is amazing to have set this up. I have never gone to a book festival or writer's convention, but one day soon I hope.

  4. Vanessa sounds like a wonderful person!!!

  5. Looks like it went GREAT! Congrats :)

  6. Thanks for having me out and letting me talk about the festival!!!

  7. Sounds great! I've attended YA Fest, which is similar and a great event.

  8. Oh my gosh. What an amazing amount of energy that must have taken.
    Kudos to you.

    Have a great weekend, Leandra:)

  9. Wow! What a great event! My goal for 2016 is to attend one such festival ... so inspiring!!

  10. This sounds like a wonderful event, Vanessa! How generous of you to share your time and organizational abilities to make this happen!

  11. What an awesome event! It took a lot of gumption to organize such an event and it sounds like you had a good turnout! I grew up in the Richmond area, so this definitely sounds like something I'd enjoy attending in the future.

  12. I'd love to do all my author events at the beach. :)


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