From Zero to Litfest in Forty Days

Author Andreas Loizou explains how he set up the Margate Bookie literary festival in forty days and forty nights.

Image Credit: 
Jayson Pay / © 2015 Andreas Loizou / Used With Permission

The second Margate Bookie takes place on August 20th and 21st 2016. This time last year the phrase set up a litfest languished on my To Do list, above mow mum’s lawn but a long way below get a new literary agent.

I only had six weeks from booking the venue, Resort Studios in Cliftonville, to throwing open the doors. I like a challenge but I’ll tell you I had my doubts as I walked across Westbrook Bay every morning. Would authors believe I was serious? Would an audience be interested in a new event? What on earth was I going to wear?

During this frantic set-up time I got negativity from just two people. One didn’t like me as a person, the other was an idiot. As soon as I said my goodbyes I wiped them from my mind. I learned to forget the toxic people and instead focused on the hundreds of readers, listeners, publishers, agents, volunteers and sisters watching my back. Show people what excites you and they will help you. Fact.

And now Margate Bookie has become – as one of my author friends in New York says – a thing. It’s unlikely that the teams behind Hay-on-Wye and Port Eliot are quaking in their Le Chameau Wellingtons, but it’s great that authors are approaching me to read at the Margate Bookie. Call me pretentious, but I now refer to it as MB16™ and hope that you do as well.

I did all the marketing – apart from a handful of emails and fifty quid for posters – with Twitter. The internet loves a list, so here are five things I learned from my fling last summer with Twitter.

1. Get help before you begin

I spent two hours in the Lifeboat with David Nevin, a brand consultant and digital marketing guru before sending out a single tweet. He taught me to focus on the authors before the audience, and on the audience before the organiser. Sound, ego-grounding advice.

Those first followers are vital – far better to have twenty people who care about what you’re doing than five thousand followers who think you’re a spambot. I’ve still not met @willshome and @velvetsilk in the flesh, but I’m eternally in their debt for retweeting my plans every day.

2. Twitter runs on digital karma

People like to help. Support other users with suggestions and retweets, and you’ll be rewarded with help and advice. Some people won’t ‘get’ you, but that happens in real life as well, right?

3. Clarity, clarity, clarity

When I teach Business Writing I force my students to summarise their three hundred page guff on Bond Yield Hypotheses into a single tweet. Discipline leads to impact. One hundred and forty spaces make you communicate one idea at a time. That’s a good thing.

4. Twitter is a tool, not a lifestyle

It’s fun connecting with new people, and I loved meeting the audience who came to the Margate Bookie. But just because the medium is immediate, it doesn’t mean that you have to be on it morning, noon and night.

5. Other tools are available

Jodie Nesling’s article on the litfest in the local paper, the Isle of Thanet Gazette, shifted as many seats as our Facebook page. Make time to have a coffee, send a press release, or write a good old-fashioned email. And keep learning. I’ve still got no idea what Instagram and Pinterest do, but I’m going to find out.

This year’s Margate Bookie takes place again at Resort Studios. But I’ve also added two other local venues – the Sands Hotel and the Theatre Royal Margate – into the mix. A fourth location is now needed as twenty-five authors have confirmed they will attend. Amongst them are best-selling crime writers and stars of literary fiction, top non-fiction names and a squadron of up-and-coming writers from Vanguard Readings. There will also be four creative writing workshops and a sprinkling of provocative panels.

Tickets to the Margate Bookie are available now. Click here for more information

Andreas' first book, The Devil’s Deal, was published by Financial Times Prentice Hall and translated into nine languages.

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