How a Tweet Reopened an Association Book Fair

After the Association of Writers and Writing Programs tweeted that tax issues forced them to close a Seattle book fair to the public, the group was able to strike a deal. It’s a lesson in the power of community and social media to make things happen.

The Association of Writers and Writing Programs hit a snag in its conference planning last week when a debate about its annual book fair broke out over social media.

It started when the association sent out a tweet through its official Twitter account announcing that its book fair—which coincides with the association’s annual meeting and brings in more than 650 exhibitors—would not be open to the public this year because of tax issues in Seattle, where the events are being held:

The tweet, sent roughly a week before AWP’s conference February 26 through March 1 incited strong responses from the association’s Twitter followers and coverage in a Seattle alt weekly.

“This is hugely disappointing news,” Paul Constant wrote in The Stranger’s news and arts blog Slog. “AWP brings hundreds of publishers to town, and most of those publishers have tables or booths at AWP where they sell their titles, often at a discount. On the last day of the conference, the book fair is traditionally open to the public so the host city can enjoy an opportunity to sample what AWP has to offer.”

In an email sent to book fair exhibitors last week, AWP conference planners addressed the complicated tax issues that led to the decision.

“AWP has been told that if the book fair was open to the public, the city would require that each exhibitor purchase a temporary license, pay a daily fee, and pay sales tax on all sales,” the conference planners wrote. “In the past, we have been able to open the book fair to the public on a case-by-case basis, and have always announced publicly when we were able to do so. We obviously never made this announcement this year, but understand how having opened it in the past has created some confusion among exhibitors that this was something that could be done every year. We sincerely apologize for that confusion.”

What angered some was AWP’s advance knowledge that the book fair would be closed to the public. AWP’s Director of Conferences, Christian Teresi, told Slog that the association had been investigating Seattle’s tax laws for months, “and I can say, from having hosted very large conferences all over the country, Seattle and Washington have some of the most complicated and punitive tax laws that I have ever seen for conferences.”

Days later the association announced the book fair was back on and attributed the news to a resolution with the City of Seattle Tax Office that enabled AWP to pay an aggregate tax on behalf of exhibitors. This in effect allows the public to attend the book fair without additional fees for exhibitors.

“The voices of AWP members, supporters, and exhibitors have been heard and were instrumental in achieving this goal,” the associations said in a statement. “AWP is grateful to the City of Seattle Tax Office for its responsiveness to our community.”


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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