Don't get me wrong - I love literature festivals. I love being around booky people, talking about booky things. I love hearing people talking about their books, and how they wrote them and why. I love the smell of bookshops. I even love the coffee in cardboard cups if I drink it them surrounded by books.
Last week, I was part of the Life Writers' presentation at the Swindon Festival of Literature. And wonderful it was too, with the group leader doing an introduction, several of us reading short extracts, and then enough questions to make sure we overran out allotted hour. We were - rightly - very pleased with ourselves. Some of us were not used to doing public stuff, so it was a confidence booster for them. And we sold some books.
So - how does one measure 'success', when it comes to a gig like that? The number of bums on seats? The liveliness of the discussion? The reality of laughter (so people must have been listening and not wondering what to have for tea)? The number of books sold?
These days, in spite of all our booky dreams, literature festivals have to be commercial enterprises. They must make enough money to justify running another, and another. Which is quite a challenge when more and more towns are gathering themselves to welcome writers and charging people to see them.
So - do we measure 'success' by the number of tickets sold? The number of books sold by each writer?
I think it's much more complicated than that. The delight I get from wandering around in booky places cannot be costed. But someone has to do the costing - make sure that profits are made. I'm glad it's their job and not mine - but that doesn't mean I'm not aware that it must be done.
How do you think 'success' can be measured at festival? Not just literature festivals - music, flowers, trainspotters ...