Book festivals are community and consumer-oriented events that bring books and authors and the publishing world to the reading public. Literary festivals of the arts, these events celebrate and showcase books from every angle. For authors and publishing professionals, they are great opportunities to bring new books to a variety of readers, to help grow writers’ fan bases, and to increase book promotion and sales.
Book Festival Programs
Book festivals generally feature author readings, book signings, cooking demonstrations by cookbook authors and/or celebrity chefs, book publishing and author panel discussions, and publishing and book- or reading-related exhibits. Because book festivals focus on serving the reading community, they usually also include a focus on children’s book publishing with readings, performances and author appearances geared to kids and young adults.
Book Festival Programming
Book festival programmers (and, sometimes, programming partners) are responsible for selecting the list of authors who appear at the festival and developing the other events. When programming the book festival, they take into consideration what books are newly-published and what local talent they can support. Of course, respected, established writers and other celebrities with newly-published books usually draw large audiences and celebrities are popular with programmers.
(Read this interview with festival programmer Paola Fernandez-Rana to learn about how book festival programmers choose which authors and books to feature).
Book Festival Management
Major, multi-day events with many participants and moving parts to coordinate, book festivals are generally managed by a small year-round festival staff as well as many volunteers.
Popular Book Festivals Around the United States
Brooklyn Book Festival
The Brooklyn Book Festival is “the largest free literary event in New York City,” the center of US book publishing. Featuring over 250 literary stars and emerging authors, the Brooklyn Book Festival features booths, authors and signings, and panel discussions and “this hip, smart, diverse gathering attracts thousands of book lovers of all ages.” The BBF is "bookended" by Brooklyn Bookend Events, literary themed events like film screenings, parties, children’s theatre, and literary games taking place across the borough in clubs, parks, bookstores, theatres and libraries.
National Book Festival
The National Book Festival is held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in September. The two-day event has been held since 2001 and generally features over 100 authors, many literary luminaries among them. Free and open to the public, the National Book Festival is organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress, as well as the National Endowment for the Arts.
Baltimore Book Festival
Held in September each year, the Baltimore Book Festival is sponsored by the City of Baltimore and the Maryland State Arts Council. The fest features author readings and book signings, cooking demos by celebrity chefs, poetry readings and workshops, panel discussions, walking tours, exhibitors (like literary tee shirt and tote vendors, food vendors, etc.) and booksellers. For kids the Baltimore Book Festival has storytellers, hands-on projects, and other performances.
Texas Book Festival
The first Texas Book Festival took place in 1996. Established by First Lady Laura Bush, the Festival celebrates books and their contributions to the culture of literacy, ideas and imagination. Mrs. Bush, a former librarian, wanted to honor Texas authors, promote the joys of reading and benefit the state's public libraries. Held in October in the State Capitol, Austin, the Texas Book Festival hosts over 200 Texas and nationally known author along with about 40,000 visitors to the weekend of author readings and presentations, panel discussions, book signings, and musical entertainment.
Louisiana Book Festival
The Louisiana Book Festival is a one-day event sponsored by the State Library of Louisiana, the Louisiana Center for the Book, the Louisiana Library Foundation and other government and retail entities. The literary festival is free to the public and is held in and around the State Capitol in Baton Rouge in October. In addition to events such as author appearances and signings, the Louisiana Book Festival features a day of writing instruction for would-be authors and an Author’s Party fund-raiser for the Louisiana Library Foundation.
The Miami Book Fair International
“The nation’s finest literary festival,” the Miami Book Fair International draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each November. Established in 1984 by Miami Dade College and community partners, the Fair is now part of the Florida Center for the Literary Arts at Miami Dade College. The Fair hosts "Evenings With..." readings and discussions with notable authors; a Street Fair that features more than 350 authors (including Latin American and Spanish authors) reading and discussing their work; and more than 250 publishers and booksellers exhibiting and selling books. The Miami Book Fair International's Children’s Alley activities, including theater, arts-and-crafts, storytelling and readings by children’s book authors.
Los Angeles Times Festival of Books
The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books was created in 1996 to promote literacy, celebrate the written word, and bring together those who create books with the people who love to read them. Free to the public, the festival features hundreds of authors, over 300 exhibitors, a Children’s Stage, a Cooking Stage, a Young Adult Stage, the Los Angeles Times Stage, Poetry Stage, panel discussions and writing seminars. Presented in association with the University of Southern California, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books draws between 130,000 and 140,000 each April.