The City Council decided tonight to put the West Hollywood Book Fair, which was to have celebrated its 14th anniversary in September, on hiatus.
The Council’s decision came in response to a report by city staff members that said attendance at last year’s fair fell by a third although city spending on the event grew by 38 percent to $150,000. While the book fair once attracted an estimated 15,000 people, attendance has fallen in recent years to 7,500, and last year it attracted only 5,000 people, the staff report said.
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 to three years. Authentic also produces the annual Halloween Carnaval, for which it is paid $408,000.
Councilmember John Heilman criticized Authentic for what he said was its poor management and promotion of the event. . “This event started out as a volunteer effort. It started in my office with an intern at the time,” Heilman said. “We have spent a lot of money on an entity that is very good at making the event look good, but they are terrible at engaging the community…The lack of visibility in terms of promotion was really troublesome.”
Heilman objected to the evolution of the book fair under Authentic to include booths selling jewelry and art. “The addition of the artists booths and the handmade jewelry — I didn’t think that added anything to the event. Much of the stuff was tacky.”
Councilmember John D’Amico proposed putting the weekend event on hiatus this year, but still having the city stage a single performance or book reading by a noted entertainer or author on the book fair weekend. While the book fair is on hiatus, he said, city staff members can work to re-establish relationships with community organizations such as Lambda Literary Foundation, which were more involved in the event before Authentic began managing it.
Last year’s event was over-produced, bland and impersonal. The vendors were not appealing. The WeHo Book Fair used to have flair and a local flavor. It was a showcase for local talent and reflected the enthusiasm and creativity of the city. We need to get back to that. To put it bluntly, I used to be able to find a lot of LBGQT lit at the WeHo Book Fair that I couldn’t find elsewhere, and I treasured that – last year I might as well have been in the middle of Idaho, or gone to any chain bookstore that still… Read more »
One major reason for decreased attendance was due to Carmageddon occuring that weekend. With the 405 shut down, no way I’d drive from the Valley!
The Book Fair should go on and expand offering local artists a place to sell their music or other works of art. Turn it into a WeHo Fair featuring local writers, painters, musicians, producers, and let people show off their books, play their music, share their art.. and lets have a festive event that does not require big money to put on. There are many local people and organizations that can head this up.. all we need is love and community to get a great event planned .
I’m an avid reader but I can’t think of anything more boring than a tiny West Hollywood Book Fair. When we’ve got something as large as the LAT Festival of Books, why would people waste their time on some pathetic little event with self-published authors? Unless the city can put the serious cash into it that would be required to make it an A-List event that publishers would want to participate in, there’s no reason to bring it back. You want to promote reading? Invest heavily in something like the One City One Book programs that are popping up around… Read more »
So, let’s agree that a re-think is in order: perhaps scaling back the size of the event, combining cookbooks and chefs’ demonstrating a few dishes, someone demonstrating their book on flower arranging, “dueling authors” on the same subject promoting their books…many contributors will have more compelling examples than these. Allow people to reserve their attendance online and submit their exhibition ideas online, to be voted up or down by potential attendees. The Creative City thinks outside the box, so let’s hear from you!
I volunteered for the book fair for the first 5 years. It then became a non community event that was run by a company and many of us felt excluded . I haven’t gone there in so many years, as it was not what it was meant to be anymore. The amount of attendees has always been an exaggeration, even in the first years. The money it costs, does not warrant the event. The event needs to be revamped and put back to what it originally was meant to be. I think the decision to put it on hiatus, until… Read more »
Its sad to think that in the most creative city in the world they could not come up with a solution. We are the center of design, entertainment, fashion,and music in many respects. All around us are neighbors that write for all aspects of those listed above and more. This is just again a sad display of the failures and disconnect that our leaders have.Is anyone thinking outside the box ? To the council if you are tired, bored, bitter or mad or think YOUR idea is the only way its ok to just quietly step down and say its… Read more »
Events fail when they are poorly promoted. It is not the public’s fault nor the vendors’ fault. Most authors, even well known names, are more than happy to promote their new book by making public appearances. @Carleton Cronin, I agree. Come on, people…this is the “creative city”, or so we are told. Can’t WeHo get it together and load up on celebrity book authors? It’s all about promotion and the city is NOT good at it. If they promoted the Book Fair the same way they promote themselves for a campaign imagine the event we could have. How about yard… Read more »
For about 10 years I looked forward to the book fair for its small city atmosphere and its unslick vendors. Then it became an “event” and the event got lamer and lamer as the next few years went by. Very hot weather notwithstanding – why were there cutesy handcrafts and silly events with no one participating. I usually went with my spendable income and recent birthday money and last year I may have spent $10 bucks. I would love to see a all city, all volunteer used book event where you rent a stall for a small fee, set up… Read more »
Last year’s book fair was a dismal event in any case. Most of the exhibitors were people who self-publish their books – often but one book – and the few publishers were smaller, with very narrow interests. The hiatus will also save the grass from having toi be replaced.
I’m not at all saying that our city is without culture, but having a book fair reinvigorates something that yes many of us will probably not see last in our lifetime and I think instead of a hiatus there could have been a way to save it. For all the money the city has, losing some on this wouldn’t be an enormous burden. Promoting the book fair and scaling back on finances that are involved if possible would have been great. Alot of people love their kindles, and digital media, but rarely get a chance to hear from the actual… Read more »