A Brief Guide to Book Fairs and Literary Festivals for Authors

As part of our job we attend various book publishing industry events to keep up to date with the latest trends and news. One thing we noticed is that when it comes to Book Fairs and Literary Festivals the definitions and purpose of each can be confusing especially for first time authors. So we thought we would spend a few minutes defining the terms for you.

Book Fairs –

Book Fairs are where the business happens, they are the marketplaces where publishers present their titles and where rights negotiation, sales and distribution takes place. Book Fairs tend to be B2B industry professional related events and are not typically open to the public. Publishers and other related industry businesses such as printers will use Book Fairs to boost brand awareness, generate new business and for networking with publishing industry peers. Workshops and seminars will be held presenting topics on trends and industry news and developments. Although some authors may be invited to speak, Book Fairs are not usually the place for authors to promote themselves. This would happen at Literary Festivals.

Literary Festivals

Literary Festivals -also known as Book Festivals or Writers Festivals- are events that bring authors and readers together. Literary Festivals will see book launches, readings, book signings and creative writing workshops. The inclusion of other cultural events such as drama productions and recitals is not uncommon at Literary Festivals. Literary Festivals range from extravagant multiple-day or monthly affairs organised by host cities, cultural organisations, business sponsors to a simple one day event held by a local bookstore. Whatever the type of event one thing is key, Literary Festivals are all about celebrating reading and writing. Popular Literary Festival’s in Africa include the Port Harcourt Book Festival in Nigeria, organised by the Rainbow Book Club, and said to attract over 9000 visitors, and the Open Book Festival in Cape Town, South Africa

Both Book Fairs and Literary Festivals can be targeted towards different genres across fiction and non-fiction so if planning to visit one check before you go to make sure it relates to your area(s) of interest, for example a festival for food writers would be very different to that of historical romance fiction, and dressing up as your favourite character is the norm for comic book festivals.

For a well-curated list of Books Fairs and Literary Festivals across Africa categorised by month we direct you to the James Murua Literature blog.

So there you have it, a brief guide to Book Fairs and Literary Festivals for authors.


– Tapiwa Matsinde

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