West Hollywood Book Fair Costs Rise as Attendance Falls Sharply

2013 West Hollywood Book Fair
Debbie Reynolds signs copies of her book at the 2013 WeHo Book Fair

Attendance at last year’s West Hollywood Book Fair fell by a third despite a 38 percent increase in spending according a city report.

The report, which will be presented Tuesday to the West Hollywood City Council, estimated 5,000 people attended the weekend event last September. A report on the 2012 book fair estimated attendance at 7,500, the same level as 2011, but it said attendance in previous years might have been as high as 15,000. Publicity about the book fair has claimed 30,000 attendees.

“Attendance has a significant impact on the ability to attract new and bigger sponsors, and is especially disappointing this year due to the extensive marketing outreach and publicity applied to this event,” the report said.

The annual book fair, which began in 2001, is one of several major events sponsored or co-sponsored by the City of West Hollywood, which says its mission is to “promote reading, writing and literacy.” Others include:

Halloween Carnaval, the city’s largest annual event, which attracts an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 people to West Hollywood on Halloween night and costs the city approximately $900,000. Carnaval has come under criticism by some City Council members because, as a one night event, it doesn’t attract overnight visitors to the city’s hotels and has a limited impact on the local economy despite its growing cost.

LA Pride, the weekend parade and festival in June sponsored by the non-profit Christopher Street West. CSW has routinely claimed 400,000 people attend Pride events, a figure widely disputed. Despite a small increase last year, revenue associated with the event has declined over the past five years, with only 28,000 paid admissions to its festival. The city has subsidized Pride with $260,000 in free services.

The Sunset Strip Music Festival, which a city report suggests might be put on hiatus because of rising financial costs. The city has contributed $540,000 and waived $46,000 in fees for festival, which began in 2007.

Since 2011 the city has contracted with the Authentic Agency, a West Hollywood-based event producer owned by Liam Lynch, to produce the book fair. Last May the city agreed to extend its annual contract with Authentic, which received $150,000 for its services, to three years. Authentic also produces the annual Halloween Carnaval, for which it is paid $408,000.

In addition to the decline in attendance, the book fair experienced a decline in exhibitors, who numbered 84 in 2013 and 75 in 2012. Exhibitors include book stores and book publishers. Sponsorship revenue, which offsets the city’s costs, fell by 30 percent to $30,000 last year.

The city had expected an increase in attendance at last year’s book fair because it didn’t have to contend with a confluence of unusual circumstances that may have limited attendance in 2012. Those included the Herbalife Triathlon, which cut off incoming traffic to West Hollywood from Los Angeles; “Carmeggedon,” the closure of the 405 north of the 10 Freeway for repairs, and temperatures in the 90’s.

The book fair has shifted its focus somewhat in recent years with booths rented by exhibitors selling jewelry, photos and art, an outdoor movie screening and a “culinary pavilion” that featured local chefs.

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Robert Paul (Little Rainbow Comics)

I was in an exhibitor in 2013 and didn’t sell one book. People did stop by my table a lot, nice compliments for my artwork and people saying ‘Oh what a nice idea’ but not one book sold. I didn’t hear anything about 2014 and probably would’ve declined it anyway. I do want to thank KPFK Radio – they did stop by my table and talk to me and did give me a radio interview the following month so it wasn’t a total loss in that sense.

Barbara
7 years ago

As someone who moderates panels every year at the fair, I will say attendance started falling two years ago, and was worse last year, because most panels no longer had protection from the sun via tents or canopies. Last year people were afraid to attend and bake in the sun yet again. Seems a simple fix to me.

Sassy
Sassy
7 years ago

This after spending millions on a new library that could be replaced with an Apple Rental Kiosk and a few terabyte drives. The next big idea a $100+million auto car garage behind city hall. Why don’t they just trade places with the Library that has a HUGE parking structure and could easily handle the load. The library could move to city hall.

dana miller
dana miller
7 years ago

Sorry to read of the stumbles at our local book fair. As a happily committed bibliophile I admit I spent 10 times more moments caressing spines in Book Soup and Vroman’s in the past year than on dates. I’ve had an odd feeling about the We Ho Book Fair the past couple of times. They seem to have lost the vibe…the mojo. It feels a bit like a boat or RV Show to me rather than a celebration of authors and their works. Litquake in SF and the LA Times Festival at USC are both stunning examples of how to… Read more »

chloe ross
7 years ago

Most years the Fair is hot late September can be in the 90’s) and this is surely a deterrent to attendance. The food is expensive and the lay out could be much better. I have never missed going but I agree this past year was quite iffy. Perhaps a better event planner and less extraneous booths. It is a book fair – not a flea market or a food festival. Save that for another walk in the park.

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