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Agony Editor: Is hosting a literary event really worth the effort?

Dear Agony Editor,

(Evan Munday)

I’m a writer who’s been asked to interview another writer on stage at a literary festival. I appreciate the ask, but I’ve done these before and they’re a lot of work. The pay isn’t great, either. I’m afraid to say no. Are these sorts of things worth it?

On the Fence

Dear On the Fence,

You are right. These types of on-stage events require a lot of work. If you’re going to do them properly, that is. And by “properly,” I mean the first question you ask shouldn’t be “So … what’s your book about?”

Being a good interviewer means doing your research. You should read the books you’ll be discussing or, at the very least, familiarize yourself with the author and their body of work. You also need to keep your audience engaged. I can’t tell you the number of events I’ve attended as an audience member and, instead of focusing on the conversation, I’m composing my grocery list.

You should also stay on the good side of the event organizers, especially since you may be calling on them when it comes time to promote your next book. So yes, it’s a lot of work. And a lot of pressure and stress. But back to your question – is it worth it?

That’s a question many writers ask themselves at one time or another. We need to determine if something’s worth it because the returns, at times, can feel so small. Is it worth spending years writing a book that might only end up selling a few dozen copies? Is it worth going to readings where only one person is in the audience? Is writing, and all the energy, time, and heart that goes into it, ultimately worth it?

From my vantage point, being in a room with other people who appreciate and value books and are interested in what an author might have to say, engaging with a writer about their craft and maybe helping them sell a few books, and carving out some space to celebrate writing in our overly crowded world does seem worth it to me.

Brian Francis is the author of Natural Order and Fruit and is a regular columnist for CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter. Have a question for Brian? Email info@quillandquire.com.