The International Festival of Authors in Toronto is the biggest literary festival for the English market in Canada. (The French market has the Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival and the successful Salon du Livre.) This year, 112 authors (61 Canadians and 51 international authors) will participate in the 10-day festival that runs this year October 20–30.
Last year's 30th anniversary programming brought 21,000 people to the ticketed events and another 64,000 to ancillary events.
IFOA director Geoffrey Taylor says while many books are sold at the festival, the real importance to publishers lies in the buzz and media attention it draws. "Literary pages are shrinking and during the time of the festival and our other big events, [the festival's events] dominate the literary press, whether it is print or electronic," he says. Reading about the books and the authors helps sell books across the country, he says, even if customers are too far away to attend the festival.
For the past few years, IFOA has also run an "international visitors program," bringing 20 or so influential international publishing figures—publishers, agents, and directors of festivals—to Toronto. Not only does the program help promote the festival, Taylor says, but "for our Canadian publishers, it's an opportunity to meet people in a firsthand way when you are not fighting through the throngs at Frankfurt or something like that, so there's more one-on-one opportunities to promote Canadian books. It opens the door both ways: we can get more international authors here and more Canadians abroad."
The IFOA is part of a new alliance that has just been formed with festivals in Edinburgh, Berlin, Melbourne, and Beijing.