Speed Dating for Books


What a week! My MIL has been in ICU and the Arkansas Literary Festival was this weekend. I am the co-chair of the children’s portion of the Festival.

Kids Get Quick Intro to Authors

The problem with a Festival is publicity. How do you get the right people to the right sessions? It’s especially difficult for the children’s programming because it means that on a beautiful spring Saturday morning, parents must choose to bring their kids to the library to hear more about books. It means that they want, well, entertainment.
Books as an educational tool just won’t pull kids/parents in on a Saturday.

The whole question is complicated by the structure of what works for adults. In that realm, Festivals usually give an author or a panel of authors an hour to talk about their work. I’ve attended Festivals in TN, KY and AR and it’s always a problem to get kids/parents to come. Sometimes, your audience is a dozen or so: most often, it’s one or two hardy souls.

This year, we decided to revisit assumptions: do children’s authors need a full hour? With a young audience, are hour-long sessions appropriate?

Instead, we planned a Book Fiesta, which one participating author described as Speed-Dating for Books.
Entertainment. First we pulled in kids/parents with entertainment. Brian and Terri Kinder, local singers/songwriters who specialize in children’s songs, performed for 30 minutes. Then, the Wolf at the Door Puppeteers performed.

Speed Dating. Six authors were then introduced and we were sent to six stations. Kids/parents were divided into six groups who were sent off to a station. At the stations, authors had 10 minutes to share their books with kids in whatever way they wanted. Then, a bell rang. Kids got stickers to show they had listened to that author.

Fiesta Party. At the end of the hour of visiting with six authors, kids gathered back in the big room. If their sticker page was full–if they had seen every author–their name was put in the hat for a drawing of a pinata they could take home. Taco salad and other refreshments were served. Meanwhile, the authors were stationed at a signing table near the elevator, where families would exit.

What’s not to love? Music, puppets, stickers, lots of variety and movement, great authors and books, a big prize and food. A complete package.

Instead of talking to one or two kids, EVERY author spoke to 40-50 kids. Wow! I love speed-dating for books!

  • Beverly Patt
    April 13, 2011

    Having had several sadly attended programs, I love this exciting, group approach. But the 6 million dollar question is, how well did this this program translate into book sales?

  • Darcy Pattison
    April 13, 2011

    Sales weren’t exciting, I sold two books.
    But let me put it in context: when I visit a school, I usually sell to 5-10% of the population. If there are 500 kids, I would sell 25-50 books, and that includes what teachers buy. So, if we had 50 kids at the Literary festival, 2-3 books is on par. I think the problem is unrealistic expectations. Something like our Literary Festival is there to sell books, yes; but it’s also there to build a community of readers, which will pay off in the long run, if not for us, then for books in general.