Monday, August 5, 2013

Promote Your Writing: Events, Readings, and Fringe Festivals

Special events, such as readings, offer writers an opportunity to generate PR, make fans, and maybe even get discovered by an agent or publisher. (Ha!) Events can also be a huge waste of time and money if no one shows up. This article includes tips for drawing an audience in an unfamiliar city plus my cost and benefits from a recent endeavor in two unfamiliar cities

Tips for drawing an audience (beyond people you already know)

- create a basic online press kit with photos of you and a description of your event.
- submit your event to every online calender and local newspaper listing you can find.
- contact college alumni groups and other organizations to which you belong in the city of you'll be in.
- ask Facebook and Twitter contacts for help getting the word out in your target city. (This was somewhat useful for me.)
- search your Linked In contacts by city and send them a note asking for help getting the word out. (this was pretty useless for me, but maybe you'll have better luck.)
- Arrive early in your target city and prior to your event, visit similar or compatible events and hand out pocket-sized flyers to people attending or exiting those events. (Yes, this is tacky and gross, but it can work. Events to consider: other writer's readings, plays, library events, book festivals, events related to the topic of your book.)
- Looking for a pre-organized event? Consider a fringe theater festival in the U.S. There are also festivals in Canada and in other countries. (If you've never done this before, leave at least three months to prepare. More on this below.)

My Recent Endeavor: A Fringe Theater Festival

Listing for my show on the Web site for Capital Fringe, the D.C. fringe festival.

I assembled scenes from my novel-in-progress, The Loneliest Planet, into a play and performed seven shows at fringe theater festivals in Portland, Maine and Washington, D.C. 

Like many fringe festivals, these two events are not juried, which means if you can pay the fee, you'll most likely get to perform. The festivals typically provide you with a theater, box office help that manages your ticket sales, and some promotion to the local media. In D.C., reviewers from local media came to my show -- a mixed blessing.
I'm a writer, not an actor, and I was able to pull off a one-hour. memorized play based on my novel. Time-wise, I spent about an hour a day for three months writing and memorizing the play.

Remember a novel is about 10 hours of material. My play was one hour, so there was some serious rewriting involved. But if I could do it...

Here are the costs and benefits from my recent efforts at the two fringe festivals:

- acting coach/director: $1200
- entry and related fees for seven shows: $25 Portland, $600 D.C.
- travel, food, etc: $1000 (12 days)
- printing: postcards, flyers, programs: $270
Total: $2,600 (includes $500 I received from ticket sales to my show)

- mentions and listings in show programs and local media in both cities: 14
- reviews from theater critics, which resulted in separate articles: 3*
- pull quotes from the reviews that I can use on my Web site, query letters to agents, and in press releases:  "Literary," "Funny," "Raw," "Ross himself is a natural performer."
- emails from people who saw my show: 39
- SEO for my novel-in-progress, "The Loneliest Planet." Previously, when I Googled my title, only a movie by that title appeared. Now, I appear on the first page of Google search results.
- my cut of ticket sales to my shows: $500. Performers who sell out their shows can earn enough to cover their costs. I didn't come close to selling out my shows.

*Other Notes:
- My reviews were mixed: I've never acted before and was petrified for my first show, which happened to be the show that all the reviewers attended. One of the more positive reviews for my show, which I called "The Chronic Single's Handbook."
- Some performers sold books, t-shirts, and DVDs to attendees of their shows.
- I did not get discovered by an agent or publisher.


 More articles on reading and performing your work


Photo: Copyright 2013 by Paul Gillis Photography

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