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For book lovers, authors, and publishers, book festivals are a tradition. They bring together all players in the publishing arena with the thrill of a dynamic, face-to-face event.

For book publishers, the reasons to attend live events remain valid even in today’s increasingly electronic age. Book festivals allow publishers to reach readers and buyers at one venue, showcase current and upcoming authors and titles, connect with potential new authors, and, of course, make sales. But to get real value from your events, it’s important to choose wisely.

Casting a broad net

For many publishers, some events are essential, particularly the big annual shows where hundreds of thousands of attendees throng. There are events that cover every niche and genre, as well as giant general book festivals.

Book Expo America is the largest book trade fair in America, with title debuts from top authors. Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy is the go-to show for children’s publishing. The Los Angeles, Texas, and Miami book festivals attract tens of thousands of attendees.

A more personal touch

Today’s publishers are learning that it’s not always the biggest shows that offer the best opportunities. Niche publishers or those that specialize in a specific discipline may get excellent ROI by targeting events in a more selective way.

For example, publishers of Scientific, Technical, and Medical (STM)-related titles might get a lot of bang for their marketing buck at the U.S. Science Festival. Independent literary presses and journals will find a likeminded crew at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs’ annual event, and there’s no place like Comic Con for pop culture, sci-fi, horror, and fantasy lovers and publishers.

Choose wisely

Once publishers determine the best events for the audience they want to reach, they need to select their best show lineup. To do so, consider these tips:

  • Review your purpose. Are you looking to interact with readers? Stay current on the latest trends? Network with other publishers in your market segment? Display your books for the public and resellers to browse? Think about what your goals are for the year, then look for shows where the audience and topics will allow you to accomplish what you set out for.
  • Set a budget. Although attending a book festival may cost less than $100 or even be free, exhibiting at a book fair may run in the thousands — and let’s not forget the travel expenses that can quickly add up. Once you’ve set a show budget, look for one or a combination of shows that fit your needs, enhance your marketing goals, and won’t break the bank.

  • Consider timing to get the most out of the show. Book shows happen throughout the year but tend to be abundant in the spring and fall. If fall is your busy time of year — wrapping up projects for the year and planning for the next — then look for a spring show that fits your schedule and allows you to focus on why you are there rather than what work awaits you when you get back.

Whether you simply attend or exhibit, book events provide an in-person connection that has become a rare and exceptional experience not to be missed.

Check out our related blog post for a list of US book publishing events.