Book festivals are the ultimate book lover’s experience. I used to work in digital products for an encyclopedia post–graduate school. With that experience came the great fortune of being able to attend a couple book festivals and conventions, namely the ALA conference and Book Expo. It was an amazing experience to attend events where everyone has a love and respect for books in all their brilliant forms. Much has happened since then — having kids and, of course, the pandemic — and it’s became much harder to attend book festivals.
Due to the pandemic and various calls for more accessibility, more festivals are now offering virtual options. Some festivals either cancelled or went fully virtual in 2020 and 2021, and going into 2022, many will continue to offer virtual options or year-around virtual events. For a parent like myself, this is great news, and I am excited to add a few festivals and conferences to my wishlist.
If you’re planning to attend one or many book festivals in 2022, below is a list for your consideration. Many of them have free newsletters, which I highly recommend signing up for to keep track of the latest news, especially early bird registrations. Add them to your itinerary, and be on the lookout for ticket sales or signups as they appear!
Big Book Festivals in 2022
By “big” I mean large in size, attendance, and notability. These are book festivals and conferences that many authors and book professionals attend and in which many readers dream of attending (me, for example). Most are named after the city in which they’re held. If the below festivals are not near where you live, I recommend checking this list on Book Reporter. Usually, there’s a book festival in almost every major city in the United States, so this is by no means an exhaustive list.
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When: February 17–20, 2022
Created in 2008, the Savannah Book Festival has aimed to host national, regional, and local authors. It is an annual free festival that is open to the public, offering dozens of author events. Due to the pandemic, SBF had to cancel its 2021 in-person events and pivoted to offering virtual events throughout the year. The neat thing is if you missed any of the virtual events, you can register to access the recordings.
In 2022, SBF plans to return as an in-person festival while still offering virtual events. The 2022 headliner is David Baldacci with keynote speaker William Kent Krueger.
The Library of Congress National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.
When: September 3–4, 2022
The National Book Festival was created by Laura Bush and Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. Its first festival was in September 2001 and has since been a prominent literary event ever since. Former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama both served as honorary co-chairs from 2009 to the present. The festival also includes year-around events.
When: Fall 2022, dates TBA (to be announced)
The Brooklyn Book Festival is New York’s largest free book festival and one of the largest book festivals in the United States. It usually consists of eight days worth of literary events — including a Festival Day and Children’s Day — with hundreds of authors and publishers (both major and independent) attending. It began in 2006, arising from the need to provide a free literary event for the community, and has been going strong ever since. The 2021 festival held events and conversations with major authors such as Alison Bechdel, Hanif Abdurraqib, and Sarah MacLean.
This is one of my bucket list book festivals with its diversity and wide offerings of events and publishers.
When: November 2022, exact dates TBA
I attended the Portland Book Festival a few years ago, and it was a wonderful experience to see prominent authors, such as Karen Russell, from the northwest and west coast and to learn more about literary magazines and small presses based there. While a city event, the Portland Book Festival has a smaller feel to it, which makes it comfortable to those who might be overwhelmed by the vastness of other major city festivals. The 2021 festival, taking place this November, offered virtual passes for events and included guest authors such as Brandon Taylor, Rivka Galchen, and Lauren Groff.
The umbrella in its logo is true to form, as it is held during a rainy, cool November. Bring your raincoats!
Subject- and Genre-Specific Book Festivals in 2022
The below book festivals have a specific message, genre, and/or mission in mind. Some are consistently held in the same location, while others move around year-to-year.
When: March 25–27, 2022
Held in New Orleans, the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival was created in 2003 as a way to communicate information about HIV/AIDS while also acting as a meeting point for the LGBTQ+ community to celebrate the literary arts. It’s held over three days in the New Orleans French Quarter, and attracts major authors such as National Book Award Finalist Dorothy Allison. The festival also publishes an annual anthology (see image on the left). Tickets are now available for the 2022 festival.
When: May 7, 2022
The Hudson Children’s Book Festival cancelled their 2021 events for safety reasons due to the pandemic, but they are hoping to start again in May 2022.
The festival was created in 2009 to promote literacy. It is held in Hudson, New York, each year in partnership with the surrounding community and schools. Families are encouraged to attend, meet creators, and foster a love of children’s books. Authors attending past festivals include Nikki Grimes, Padma Venkatraman, Joyce Wan, and many others.
When: July 7–10, 2022
Fans of mystery, suspense, and thriller fiction rejoice! There is a book festival just for you. Sleuthfest 2022 will be held in south Florida and registration opens in February 2022, so mark your calendars. This is as much an event for writers as fans of the genre, offering craft panels, workshops, and even forensic classes. The full schedule has yet to be posted, but the guest of honor will be Jeffrey Deaver.
When: Moved to July 13–16, 2023
I’m cheating a little bit adding this one, since it was announced that Readercon 32 will be moved to 2023. Readercon is a renowned convention for “imaginative fiction” or speculative fiction. It also hosts the annual Shirley Jackson Awards. Readercon 31 was held virtually, and the guests of honor were authors Jeffrey Ford and Ursula Vernon. The status and guests of honor for Readercon 32 are yet to be announced, as the programming is still being decided. Readers and writers alike should keep a look out as more information is posted.
2022 Book Festivals for Writers and Book Professionals
Arguably, any and all book festivals are useful to writers and book professionals, but the below events are catered more specifically toward them. ALA targets librarians and book professionals. AWP has often been considered the big writer’s conference of year. However, smaller conferences are popping up and growing in popularity, one of which I’ve included below.
When: March 23–26, 2022
The Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference & Bookfair is a massive event and often considered the go-to conference for writers. Hundreds of exhibitors, presses, lit mags, and authors attend. Like many other conferences, AWP was conducted virtually in 2021. It will also offer a virtual component in 2022, though the overall conference plans to be in person again. In 2022, the conference will be held in Philadelphia, and the location changes year-to-year. The keynote speaker for 2022 is poet Toi Derricotte, and more presenters will be announced.
Early bird registration has already opened for the 2022 event, with prices ranging from $100 virtual attendance to $310 for non-members purchasing tickets on site on the day of the conference. Keep in mind that many hotels surrounding the conference location book up quickly. If you are aiming to attend, start planning ASAP.
When: June 23–28, 2022
The American Library Association’s annual conference will be held in Washington, D.C., in 2022, though it will also have a Midwinter Meeting in January 2022. The Midwinter Meeting is a smaller version of the annual conference, and will be held in San Antonio. For this listing, I’ll focus on the annual conference:
The annual conference hosts more than 100 authors and speakers, with 900+ exhibitors. The ALA conference is for the thousands of leaders in library and information industry, and is usually only accessible to ALA members and exhibitors. I was able to attend in Chicago some years ago because the encyclopedia I worked for was exhibiting.
When: 2022, dates TBA
Conversations and Connections was held virtually in October 2021, but hopes to be in person for 2022. It is a one-day writer’s conference that brings together editors, publishers, and writers to form a supportive atmosphere for networking and discussion. Barrelhouse magazine runs the conference, and it is important to note that ALL proceeds for the event goes back to the small presses and literary magazines participating. The $70 registration fee includes the “full day conference, including the keynote by featured authors keynote discussion, and 3 craft workshop/panel sessions, plus two books: your choice of choice of 2 out of our 6 featured small press books.” If you’re looking for a quick, budget-friendly conference catered to writers, this is the festival for you.
Frankfurt Book Fair/Frankfurter Buchmesse
When: Exact 2022 dates TBA, usually mid-October
Since its inception in 1949, the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany has been central to the world of publishing. It is very likely the world’s largest trade fair for books. In 2020, the fair was also offered virtually, with more than 4,000 digital exhibitors from more than 100 countries. The event is as important to book professionals as it is to authors and book aficionados.
For those living outside of Europe, this would include hefty travel costs, but if you able, it’s definitely a bucket list book festival.
Planning and Preparing for Your Book Festival Experience
Book Riot has written a few articles regarding book festivals, including preparing yourself for the overwhelming nature of these large events. Laura Marie’s article What I Learned At My First Independent Book Festival is a great starting point for any first-time festival attendee.
As mentioned a few times above, many big festivals are offering virtual options in addition to in-person events in 2022, as well as virtual accessibility for year-around events. The rise of digital-only book festivals is important to note. The subject is covered extremely well in Alice Nuttall’s 2021 Book Riot article.
Whatever your preferences, it is heartwarming to know that more and more book conferences/conventions/festivals are becoming accessible and available for those who seek them. There are independent book festivals and niche festivals in addition to the big ones. These are inspiring events where ideas, imagination, and culture intersect. Whatever your interests and goals, may you find the book festival you’re looking for.