How to Attend the National Book Festival

Anne Marble
7 min readAug 15

This weekend, I attended the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. for the first time. Along the way, I picked up tips on how to make it easier next time.

These tips can apply to similar author events as well.

A large open area in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center with a patterned blue and yellow carpet — and an escalator to the far left. There are attendees throughout intermingled with volunteers in blue shirts.
The 2023 National Book Festival at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. (Source: Photo by the author.)

What Is the National Book Festival?

The National Book Festival is a yearly event run by the Library of Congress. In 2001, it was founded by former First Lady Laura Bush (a librarian) and the 13th Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington. The first one hosted between 25,000 and 30,000 attendees.

Since 2014, with attendance soaring to as many as 200,000 people, the National Book Festival has been held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

The National Book Festival is huge, busy, and overwhelming. Read up on the event. Learn from what I did right, and most important of all, learn from what I did wrong.

1. Wear Sensible Shoes.

This one is obvious, but I’m stating it anyway just in case you’re tempted to break it. You’ll be walking from one event to another. If you want signed books, you’ll be in line a lot.

A view of a large room with gray carpeting and multiple long lines of people lining up to meet authors. Volunteers in blue shirts with white lettering are also visible.
Multiple Book Signing Lines. (Source: Photo by the author.)

2. Visit the National Book Festival Website.

Which authors will be coming? What are the rules? What are the topics of the author presentations and panels? What am I allowed to bring? What is the floor plan? Visit the National Book Festival website, and you’ll learn all these things and more. The Festival Information page has links to FAQs, Safety Tips, a Virtual Guide, and more. You can also download the program and map.

3. Learn the Schedule and Plan Your Day.

Before you go, familiarize yourself with the National Book Festival schedule. Plan your day based on the events you most want to see. Take advantage of the search filters to look for the authors (and genres) you are most interested in. Look over the Discover New Authors & Beloved Favorites page.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed. How overwhelmed? This year, the authors included everyone from Héctor Tobar to George Saunders to Amor

Anne Marble

I’m a writer and a copy editor with experience in editing science and engineering articles. Click Lists to find my most popular articles. And hidden gems.