Book Fairs and Reading Festivals

Book Fairs and Reading Festivals

Most summers, Linda Saracino travels from her Central Florida home to Book Expo America, the country’s largest book fair. Often held in New York City, the four-day trade show includes a book fair, author festival, and writer’s conference.

Two Reasons to Attend Book Expo America

“I go to interact with publishers and look for opportunities to edit book manuscripts,” says the freelance book editor and former used bookstore owner. “I also go to see what’s new in the marketplace and to meet stimulating writers.”

And don’t forget the freebies. “You may get toys, magnets, pencils, canvas bags, books, and other novelty items,” Saracino says.

Attend Book Fairs and Literary Festivals

Various book events occur throughout the country nearly every weekend, with outdoor events in the fall and spring, and indoor events year-round. Here are six reasons for attending:

1) Savings. Many smaller book events are free. When exhibitors pay for booths outdoors, the event coordinators offer free admission to the public. These book festivals and fairs often include live entertainment, book sales, book signings, speakers, and raffles. Many authors also bring their own personal stash of books to these events (purchased at an author discount) and may be inclined to pass the savings on to you.

2) Famous Authors. Large book events, such as the Miami Book Fair International, which for the past 23 years has united readers and writers during a free 10-day celebration each November, put on quite a show. Highlights include author presentations, discussions, musical entertainment, international pavilion, children’s alley, antiquarian annex, and book fair. You can meet famous authors at these larger events. In recent years, Miami Book Fair International has attracted more than 350 authors, 300 exhibitors, and several hundred thousand booklovers to its annual event.

3) Knowledge. Writer’s conferences – often pricey affairs, but well-worth it in terms of knowledge gained – are generally held at colleges, hotels, and convention centers. Bookstores associated with these conferences are great places to find bargains, meet interesting people, and learn valuable information, as well at the conference seminars, agent interviews, meals, and open mic nights. Sometimes just chatting with someone between sessions can link you to a new source of information or inspire a great idea. Major book fairs and festivals often have mini-conferences attached to them.

4) Contests. Book fairs, festivals, and conferences usually offer writing contests in conjunction with their events. The writing may be poetry, fiction, nonfiction, essay, screenwriting, or other categories. These contests charge an entry fee and provide prizes ranging from cash to services to products (often books).

5) Networking. Meeting people for fun and profit, i.e., networking, is the key component to attending book events of any size in any place. Whether mingling among folks at a large event like the Virginia Festival of the Book or a smaller gathering such as the annual Florida Writers Association Conference, you can meet contacts that might change your career forever.

6) Speaking Opportunities. Book events need speakers. If you’ve got the experience and credentials, apply to speak at an event in your area (or to an area where you would like to travel). Do an online search for conferences, fairs, and festivals. Your travel and/or accommodations usually will be paid for, although lesser-known speakers and new authors may not get paid for the actual speaking engagement. Even so, you’ll gain another credit for your resume and get the chance to meet people in the publishing industry.

Exhibitors and Speakers at Book Fairs

No booklover should hesitate in attending a fair, festival, or conference. Saracino sums it up for readers, writers, and editors everywhere. “Just go,” she says. “These exhibitors and speakers are so glad to see you. It’s not about sounding smart or literary or being published. If you enjoy books, just go and soak it all up.”