The Wisconsin Book Festival presented 68 author programs in 2020 — seven in person, and the remainder virtually via Crowdcast — to engage readers in our community and beyond. More than 11,500 people attended events throughout the year, with an average of more than 175 attendees per event — a higher average than in-person events typically yield. The festival’s three-day celebration in mid-October offered 16 conversations with 20+ authors, including many award winners.

Festival Director Conor Moran spent late March and April communicating with numerous authors, poets and directors of other book festivals; rebooking events for the virtual format; and investigating the best streaming platform. Literary Hub, a website for book lovers around the world, recently recognized him for providing strong leadership to virtual book festivals this year.

All festival events are recorded and available for replay, adding the values of convenience and flexibility. “I don’t see a model for in-person events in the future that doesn’t involved a streaming element,” Moran said.

Another virtual programming benefit is the ability to watch from anywhere. Many who have accessed festival events are from outside Wisconsin and even outside the U.S. At a time when people are sorely missing physical connection, the festival is successfully responding with safe, accessible opportunities to engage with writers, support their work and celebrate great books.

A survey of audience members resulted in the following comments:

“Thank you so much for continuing to hold these events in altered form through the pandemic! The Wisconsin Book Festival is such a wonderful institution.”

— attendee of Charles Yu’s Interior Chinatown virtual event

“This is the most pure and joyful thing I’ve witnessed all year.”

— audience member watching Nikki Giovanni’s Make Me Rain event 

Madison Public Library Foundation privately raises funds from a community of book-loving donors to cover the majority of the festival’s budget. We’re so grateful to the festival’s lead sponsors:

Marvin J. Levy, Signature Sponsor

Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation, Presenting Sponsor

Cheryl Rosen Weston Estate, Festival Patron

Visit in January to learn about winter and spring events.