Maximizing the Benefits of Attending a Book Festival

Have you ever gone to a book festival and found yourself wandering aimlessly, maybe doing some browsing at booths, but you end up thinking that you're missing out on the essence of the event? If this describes your last festival visit, then consider some early planning before your next literary festival.

Sometimes book festival schedules are confusing, especially when you're attending a festival in a city you don't know well. With authors at multiple venues, book signings, publisher sales and more to peruse, without careful planning, it's easy to get overwhelmed. If you don't know where to go, you can just end up wandering through vendor tables without finding the best events until they've already begun.

If you're attending a book festival for the first time, or in a new city, here's a rundown of how to make the best use of your time during these literary events.

Make a Plan: Before attending a book festival, it is a great idea to research the authors attending and the panels in which they will discuss. Familiarize yourself with the schedule and the layout of the venues, and make a plan before showing up. Knowing where you're going and when you have to be there will make the day more enjoyable, but you can also prepare far in advance of the festival with your own reading list.

Before the festival, try reading at least one book by each author in the panels you're interested in. This will not only make these talks more enjoyable and educational for you, but will also lead to more interesting questions for the panel.

Get There Early: Once you've made your plan, get there early to get the best seat for the events you'd like to attend as well as the best deal on books. Many book festivals also have great lines of authors signing and publishers selling books. Don't miss out.

Talk to the Authors: One of the great things about book festivals and book fairs is the opportunity to actually meet and talk with the authors. Take advantage of this and strike up a conversation. Remember that the author's goal at the festival is to generate publicity and increase sales. Aligning your conversation with their goals is the best way to increase your face-to-face time with a festival's authors.

Take Notes: If you're attending an author's presentation or panel, take notes about interesting facts and ideas. This is especially beneficial if the author has something you plan to read soon or if you just want more information about the book's subject matter.

Bring Cash: Many book festivals and book fairs are cash only, so make sure to bring some with you for both books and food if you're getting hungry. There will also be a number of booths and food trucks that accept credit or debit cards. Consider taking a pre-loaded card rather than your regular credit card, both to keep you on a budget, and to keep your banking information secure while buying from unknown vendors.

Stay Cool and Hydrated: Don't forget to keep yourself hydrated. Many festivals are held in the summer months when the weather can take a toll on your body. Be sure to bring some water, and partake liberally to keep your mind and body healthy and safe. If many activities are outdoors, bring appropriate clothing, wear sunscreen, and mark out potential air-conditioned locations to stop into to take a break from the heat while you're there.

Embrace the Atmosphere: Apart from personal gains, attending a book festival is about experiencing new and engaging literary culture. Enjoy the friendly banter, connect over shared perspectives, and engage with the community of book-lovers as this can transform your festival day from good to excellent.

Finally, once all the readings are done, signings finished, and panels engaged, give yourself time to mentally decompress and process all you've learned. Sharing your favorite parts or excerpts read with friends can enhance your understanding and solidify your memory. Online, there are usually forum discussions relating to the festival where you can add your opinions and engage in conversations. Check the festival literature for social media hashtags or official groups.

Wendy Woudstra

Wendy Woudstra is the driving force behind PublishersArchive.com, an ad-supported informational website featuring a comprehensive database of book publishing companies, literary festivals, and literary awards.

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