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6 Unique Literary Festivals for Adventurous Authors

Writing differs from most other professions. As an author, you can set your own hours, work from home in your PJs and live unhindered by the daily commute. While that might sound like the dream, as many people have discovered this year, it can turn into a nightmare.

Some authors tackle issues like loneliness and isolation by networking. Events like SPS Live, 20Books, NINC and The London Book Fair attract shoals of authors and deliver significant value for their mental states and careers. However, as community hubs that everyone knows, these US and European events do share a lot of overlap; similar faces, discussion points and settings sometimes give you a sense of déjà vu. So, are there other options that deliver a similar return on investment?

The simple answer is that it depends. Yes, there are lots of unique, lesser-known events around the world that adventurous authors can explore, but many lack the same value. Some also make booking a challenge by promoting their tickets exclusively on non-English websites. Yet there are undiscovered gems that provide promise for intrepid sorts with a global business mindset.

While SPF doesn’t officially endorse any particular event, listed here are a few that show potential, selected for either their unique locations, activities or focus. By attending, you can mingle with all sorts of industry professionals and reach pockets of the world previously uncharted by the average indie. The pandemic has temporarily closed some of them (as with everything), but they are likely to return. Why not explore them when the borders reopen to cure your wanderlust?

San Miguel Writers’ Conference & Literary Festival

Location:

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Approximate Date:

February

Approximate Ticket Price:

$15 – $915 USD

Targeted Visitors:

Primarily writers, no matter how they publish. Readers and book trade professionals are also welcome.

Description:

Hosted in a community of 18th Century buildings awarded the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the San Miguel Writer’s Conference prides itself as the “most prestigious cross-cultural, bi-lingual literary gathering in the Americas.” Since its conception in 2006, it has boasted worldwide literary titans as keynote speakers, including Diana Gabaldon, Margaret Attwood and – most recently – Delia Owens, author of Where the Crawdads Sing.

There are a plethora of talks, performances, panels and workshops at the event, all ticketed at different prices ranging from free to $70. Some are vast enough to fill ballrooms, others are more intimate. If you’re planning to stay a few days and want to save money, you can buy a conference package for a few hundred dollars. These are more expensive for writers than reading visitors. However, they give you complete access to all events. As a hotspot for tourism, the area has many cafes and bars, which thrive whenever the 10,000 visiting writers and readers flock to the festival.

Seymour Agency Winter Writer’s Escape Cruise

Location:

A Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship from Miami, Florida to Nassau, Bahamas

Approximate Date:

February

Approximate Ticket Price:

$199 USD + Cruise Cost

Targeted Visitors:

Authors looking to publishing traditionally. However, the diverse speakers also provide value for indie authors.

Description:

The Winter Writer’s Escape Cruise is described on its official site as three days at sea “jam-packed with sessions on craft, marketing, publishing, trends, proposal writing, and the fantastic PitchFest with agents and editors in attendance.” The ship itself is fully kitted with all of the ordinary cruise amenities, including a pool, shopping mall, bars and restaurants. This means that, if you ever need a break from the intensity of the sessions, you can unwind with other authors and non-writing passengers or relax alone by the pool.

There are lots of opportunities to network with fellow authors. However, this event’s real attraction is the quality of the speakers. In the past, the cruise has featured expert literary agents, audiobook publishers, traditional publishers, and even Netflix executives, allowing authors in attendance free rein to pitch and network.

Ake Arts & Book Festival

Location:

Abeokuta, Lagos State, Nigeria

Approximate Date:

October

Approximate Ticket Price:

2,500 ₦ – 50,000 ₦ NGN ($6.47 – $129.45 USD)

Targeted Visitors:

Mainly readers and scholars but also some authors and poets.

Description:

Founded in 2012, the Ake Arts & Book Festival is a four-day event that promises to immerse its 1,000+ annual visitors in African culture, promote literacy (especially among schoolchildren), and support schools to create reading spaces and libraries. The festival itself is well-organised, with sponsorship from Google and media coverage on BBC Africa. It has attracted high-profile guest authors over the past few years, from Booker Prize winners to international bestsellers and Nobel laureates, all of whom celebrate African culture and its impact on the world.

As a visitor, you will encounter book giveaways, readings, panels, workshops, film screenings and live performances from theatre troupes. On top of that, the event attracts African-influenced musicians from around the globe, as well as oral storytellers and religious leaders. The show doesn’t house many publishing executives. However, as an author, there are opportunities to liaise with other writers, librarians and book trade professionals, as well as Africa-based influencers, without having to fight through a huge crowd.

Galle Literary Festival

Location:

Galle, Sri Lanka

Approximate Date:

January

Approximate Ticket Price:

1,500 – 15,000 LKR ($8.07 – $80.74 USD)

Targeted Visitors:

Mainly writers and highly engaged readers. Also some publishing executives and book trade professionals.

Description:

Set in and around the historic Dutch Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Galle Literary Festival is a five-day event for writers and super-engaged readers working in the book industry. It attracts around 3,000 visitors every year and welcomes them with live musical performances and even fire dancers. Billed as “one of the most anticipated literary events in South East Asia for both authors and literary enthusiasts” it offers plenty of intimate networking events where visitors can meet world-class writers, poets, musicians, artists, performers and publishing executives.

As a visitor, you can expect cocktail parties with New York Times bestsellers and dinners with Booker Prize winners. A few previous notable guests include Anthony Horowitz, Ian Rankin, Arthur C. Clarke, Richard Dawkins and Michael Morpergo. Plus, there are genre-specific masterclasses on book writing, song writing and painting, led by prominent figures in their fields. This event doesn’t revolve around pitching for rights deals. However, authors are free to talk to the high-powered publishing executives that attend during the day and at afterparties.

Cairo International Book Fair

Location:

Egypt International Exhibitions Center, New Cairo, Egypt

Approximate Date:

January – February

Approximate Ticket Price:

5 LE ($0.32 USD)

Targeted Visitors:

Primarily readers, publishers and traditional book trade professionals.

Description:

Spread over 14 days, this event is considered by many publishing experts as the world’s biggest book fair in terms of visitor numbers, greeting 3.5 million readers during the fortnight it’s open. Conducted by the country’s Ministry of Culture, the organisers aim to “provide a large, well-stocked market of books to an Egyptian audience” and “facilitate cultural exchange”. As such, it attracts 900 publishers from around the globe, rivalling the industry’s largest trade fair, Frankfurt. On top of that, though, it also welcomes families, school classes and mainstream readers, which makes it the event of the year for the area’s booksellers, libraries and publishers.

Self-publishing hasn’t taken off in this area as strongly as it has in the US and parts of Europe. However, there are still lots of networking and licensing opportunities for authors looking to break into the lucrative Arab publishing market. With so many publishers and distributors packed into vast halls full of cafés and restaurants, the event is a breeding ground for publisher business ideas.

Swancon

Location:

Perth, Australia

Approximate Date:

April

Approximate Ticket Price:

$150 AUD – $200 AUD ($105.56 – $140.72 USD), for concessions and full tickets respectively.

Targeted Visitors:

Science fiction and fantasy (SFF) creators, but also some publishing industry experts and avid SFF readers.

Description:

Every year, hundreds of SFF lovers, authors and other creators converge in Perth to attend Swancon, one of the oldest speculative fiction conventions in Australia. The gathering lasts three days (Saturday to Monday) during which guests and organisers “chat, drink, discuss and party.” You are unlikely to spot A-list authors, but the event organisers have strong links to well-established Australian literary organisations. Plus, they host a unique spectrum of activities. Yes, there are lunches, drinks sessions, readings and panels. But they also have fantasy-themed dance classes, movie screenings, synchronised lightsabre shows and board game bonding areas. Even live-action quidditch!

As a guest author, you can participate in coffee mornings to discuss craft. Or you can attend workshops on the business of writing. With a few publishers selling books, wandering fiction magazine editors and an awards ceremony hosted by the Romance Writers of Australia, there are plenty of networking opportunities for entrepreneurial writers who want to grow their fanbase and connections in Australia. The US and Europe are fantastic author networking hubs but the publishing landscape really is a global affair that’s only set to grow as the internet permeates to all corners of the map. Attend some of these promising events before the masses discover their value and you could gain a significant local advantage as a pioneer.

Daniel Parsons

Daniel Parsons

Dan Parsons is the bestselling author of multiple series. His Creative Business books for authors and other entrepreneurs contains several international bestsellers. Meanwhile, his fantasy and horror series, published under Daniel Parsons, have topped charts around the world and been used to promote a major Hollywood movie. For more information on writing, networking, and building your creative business, check out all of Dan’s non-fiction books here.