What are the Best Practices for Book Festivals?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka


In today’s lead story and a blog post from yesterday, we discuss five different book festivals taking place across China and the UAE. In the UAE, some 70 authors will appear in Dubai at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature over┬ájust three days; a similar number will appear at the Man Hong Kong International Literary Festival over a week, and the others at the Bookworm International Literary Festival over some two weeks. This raises the question: is it better to concentrate author appearances over a very short period of time, or is a longer period better?

In 2004, I helped run the Texas Book Festival held in Austin, Texas. Over two days we hosted some 200 authors; one common complaint was that it was impossible to see many of the authors you might want to see since so many sessions overlapped. The temptation is to book two dozen top authors, but if you don’t have enough time slots and big enough venues to ensure that all who want to see them can, you may be doing them and your attendees a disservice.

Plus, in Texas, all events were — and still are — free. Now, there is a trend toward ticketing for top events, or, in the case of events like the New Yorker Festival or the Hong Kong festival, charging for many events. This is certainly in response to the widespread trend toward authors charging for their appearances — charging tickets helps offset the costs — but it also assists with crowd management by keeping a limited number of seats available.

So, the question is, what are the best practices for book festivals? Fewer authors or more? Longer or shorter fairs? Charge or free? Pay for authors or negotiate to get them on tour for free?

Certainly every event is different, but we’d love for you to share your opinions and experiences with us in the comments below or via Twitter using #ppdiscuss.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.