The Boom in Literary Festivals Spotlight

bookblast literary festivals spotlight feature

Literary Festivals are a key component of book promotion. Gone are the days when an author’s book promotion was simply about having a launch party, doing a few press and radio interviews, some bookshop signings and a talk at an appropriate venue. Now, in the UK, more books are published per inhabitant than anywhere else in the world: the scramble to get noticed is fierce.

What does a book promotion package entail?

The full author book promo package now includes: having an author website, contacting personal Media contacts and those with specialist and local appeal, as well as international contacts; getting endorsements; writing for the press when and where possible; arranging speaking engagements, seminars, or workshops; connecting live ‘n’ direct with readers to build up a following via social media (facebook, twitter, youtube, pinterest); writing a blog, guest blogging and going on blog tours. It is immensely time consuming, but adopting a luddite attitude is ill-advised.

The literary festival circuit is a key component of book promotion. The more an author gets known the more likely it is sales will rise, ergo financial gain for all involved. Few writers would shun the opportunity to promote their latest book to potential punters, however many or few of them come to a talk and buy a book afterwards, with an autograph thrown in.

Some festival organizers pay an appearance fee and travel costs, and some do not – always ask albeit diplomatically. Payment (or not) is a point of irritation with many authors, who also complain about the obsession with celebrities and ‘names’ seeping into literary festivals at home thereby devaluing them.

I used to enjoy going to Hay and Edinburgh and others, but stopped going, for no particular reason. Since publication in January of Lesley Blanch’s memoirs which I edited, On the Wilder Shores of Love: A Bohemian Life, I have been asked to participate in various festivals. I accepted, of course – my curiosity over-riding a feeling of trepidation at finding myself in front of a ‘live’ audience. Back in the day festivals used to be rather cosy, mildly shambolic affairs – no longer. At the Oxford Literary Festival one Sunday in March, as I made my way to the Bodleian Divinity School for a talk with historian Philip Mansel, we cut through a queue snaking around the Sheldonian Theatre, and a huge tent was packed with punters browsing and buying books . . . giving credence to novelist Will Self’s view – a regular on the festival circuit – that literary festivals are “the Nuremberg rallies of the contemporary bourgeoisie.”

“If I could stick my pen in my heart
And spill it all over the stage
Would it satisfy ya . . . I know it’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it
I know it’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it, like it, yes, I do . . .” sang Mick Jagger.

From rock concerts to literary festivals: baby boomers are still very much engaged with the world.

The boom in literary festivals is such that at this week’s London Book Fair, a ‘new’ event will be held: the Literary Festival Forum with The Radio Times Festival, a half-day conference on everything to do with the organisation behind literary festivals.

BookBlast’s Essential Great British Literary Festivals:


Financial Times Oxford Literary Festival


Charleston Festival, Sussex
Guardian Hay festival, Wales
Stoke Newington Literary Festival, London


Ways With Words Literature Festival, Devon
Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Harrogate
Voewood Festival, Norfolk
Edinburgh International Book Festival, Scotland


The Oldie’s Soho Literary Festival, London


The Sunday Times Cheltenham Festival, Gloucester
Ilkley Literature Festival, West Yorkshire


Bridport Literary Festival, West Dorset
The Gibraltar International Literary Festival


Jaipur Literature Festival, India.

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