Tavis Smiley Joins Lineup for 2015 Savannah Book Festival

Tavis Smiley_credit The Smiley Group, Inc.- Kevin Foley(SAVANNAH, GA) Another blockbuster author has joined the nearly 40 writers scheduled to speak at the 2015 Savannah Book Festival. Tavis Smiley, New York Times best-selling author, award-winning PBS late-night television talk show host and public radio broadcaster, will present his new book, Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year, on Festival Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015. All Festival presentations that day in and around Telfair, Wright and Chippewa Squares in Savannah’s Historic District are free and open to the public.

Smiley has written 16 books and is the recipient of numerous awards, including several NAACP Image Awards and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His latest book studies the 12 months leading up to Dr. King’s assassination on April 4, 1968, a period that Smiley considers the darkest of the civil rights leader’s career. The book, written from Dr. King’s perspective, tackles the assaults on his character, ideology and political tactics by the President, media and even the black community, and how they shaped both Dr. King’s final year and his legacy.

The exact time and location of Smiley’s presentation, along with those of the other authors participating in the 2015 Savannah Book Festival Saturday, will be announced on the Festival’s website in early February.

The Savannah Book Festival Inc. (SBF) is an independent, non-profit corporation led by a volunteer board of directors. SBF presents best-selling and emerging authors in special events throughout the year, including a four-day Presidents Day weekend featuring talks by dozens of authors. The 2015 Savannah Book Festival will be held Feb.12-15, 2015, in locations in and around Telfair, Wright and Chippewa Squares in Savannah’s Historic District. For more information, please contact Executive Director Robin Gold at 912.598.4040, or visit

2015 Savannah Book Festival Free Day Includes Fairstein, Iles, O’Nan, Dozens More

SAVANNAH, GA—The 2015 Savannah Book Festival, presented by Georgia Power and Bob and Jean Faircloth, has revealed its complete line-up of best-selling and emerging authors who will speak on Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015. All presentations on that day, including those by international top-selling writers, are free and open to the public. read more…

Anne Rice, Janet Evanovich, P.J. O’Rourke headlining 2015 Savannah Book Festival

Three blockbuster authors will kick off, keynote and close the 2015 Savannah Book Festival, scheduled for Feb. 12-15. read more…

Savannah Book Festival offering events year-round


Local book lovers know to block off Presidents Day weekend on their calendars. That’s when the Savannah Book Festival brings in dozens of authors, from international bestsellers to local and regional favorites, for a four-day celebration of the written word.

Eight years in, the Book Fest has expanded from an ambitious event in Telfair Square attended mostly by locals to a three-square, 40-author event that’s nationally known. And now it’s expanding again.

Starting on Tuesday with a release party for Mary Kay Andrews’ new book, the aptly named “Save the Date,” the Book Festival will kick off a year-round schedule of events, featuring high-profile authors from around the nation.

Book Fest board chairman Jack Romanos explains: “We feel that we succeeded with the main festival. In fact, we know we have because we’re at the point where authors are asking us, agents and publishers are asking us if we’ll take authors at the festival, where at the beginning we were almost begging somebody. So having succeeded with the main event, we really feel that phase two is to bring authors to Savannah on a regular basis, as an extension of the weekend event into a year-round event.”

Romanos comes to Savannah after a career in publishing, culminating with his position as CEO of print powerhouse Simon & Schuster. His experience in that often cutthroat industry has proved invaluable in shaping the literary scene here.

“In the beginning,” he says, “one of our strategies was to put Savannah on the map as it relates to the New York publishing community. I say New York because that’s primarily where the center of publishing is. But, from my previous experience, I can tell you that Savannah didn’t exist when it came to promoting or publicizing an author. So our primary goal was to put Savannah on the map as a place that had a solid reading audience, where nationally known authors could actually promote their book.”

In addition to Mary Kay Andrews this summer, the Book Fest will also host Lee Child, bestselling author of the Jack Reacher novels, for an event in the fall. Besides giving the local audience offerings throughout the year, opening up the calendar allows the festival to bring in authors who, like Child, are unavailable in February.

Robin Gold, the festival’s executive director, notes that it’s a bit of a coup to land an author the caliber of Child, who hasn’t visited Georgia in more than four years.

“Lee Child doesn’t do a lot of these types of presentations,” she says, “and he’s not in the South very often. So this is a pretty big deal that he’s coming to Savannah.”

Gold also agrees with Romanos about the value of the event for local readers.

She says, “The goal is just to be able to keep everybody involved. The people that come to the festival love it so much that they want more, so it’s become apparent that having these special events is the way to do that. It’s just being able to support our supporters, and giving them more year-round.”

Ann Higbee serves as the festival’s president, and comes to the board not from publishing like Romanos, but from a public relations background. She focuses much of her energy on making Savannah an appealing city for the authors the festival hopes to attract.

“We do a really, really good job with hospitality befitting the city that they come to,” she says. “We do a wonderful job when it comes to the ambiance of the festival. We do a very good job of engaging interested readers. On average, about 10,000 people participate over President’s Day Weekend, and they’re people who care about reading.”

The uniqueness of the setting and the quality of the attendees has authors and publishers paying attention when they look for an appropriate venue.

“There are two metrics they use to determine that,” says Higbee. “One is not only the number of people who are interested but the quality of those people, in the sense that they engage. So the authors get really good rubbin’ shoulder time.

“That’s part of what their psychic return needs to be. The other metric is do the people come to buy books. From the author and publisher’s points of view, that’s what they want. They want eager fans, and they want book sales. We do that.”

It’s interesting to note that putting on the annual festival is not technically the goal of the organization. While the activities over Presidents Day weekend are the most obvious manifestation of that goal, the goal’s broader terms give the festival license to reach beyond their signature event.

“Our goal really is to support the love of reading and civil conversation and to promote the joy of the written word,” Gold says. “To do that, the festival is not planning on growing in size, we’re just planning on growing in scope with what we offer and just maturing and just continuing to bring these fabulous events to Savannah.”

Higbee elaborates, “There are lots of wonderful festivals. Most of them that we know about are very large, and much less up close and personal. There’s more of a distance between the participant and the author. We’re not interested in that model. We do not see in our future tampering with the combination of historic buildings and historic squares, all in the very heart of what makes Savannah appealing. I think our model is a little bit different, and maybe what we define as better is a little bit different.”

The authors the Book Festival brings to Savannah will appear elsewhere over the course of a book tour, and the readers who come in from out of town are likely to visit other readings and book signings, but all of them will leave here with memories of Telfair Square and historic venues and that certain something that keeps the sidewalks downtown full of tourists. There’s no other place that can replicate that.

“This is our eighth year,” says Gold, “and when it started out eight years ago, it was really a completely local audience, but it has emerged and evolved now to the point where people are coming into Savannah for the Book Festival from out of town. It’s becoming nationally recognized, which is great for the city of Savannah. We love having local followers, but we also love having the regional aspect and the national aspect. Anyone who loves books is who we want to have here.”

At the end of our interview, Ann Higbee asks me to remind everyone that the Savannah Book Festival is a nonprofit, and as such relies on the support of the Savannah community. That support can come in the form of donations of time or money. So if you’re a fan of the written word, celebrate it year-round with the Savannah Book Festival, and get involved to get even more out of the experience.

Andaz Savannah and Savannah Book Festival host national launch of Mary Kay Andrews’ “Save the Date”


Savannah Book Fest Thrives Despite Weather

More than 9,000 attendees descended on Telfair and Wright Squares, and the Trustees Theatre, for the 7th annual Savannah Book Festival this past weekend in Savannah, Ga. Thirty-nine authors, including Alice Hoffman (The Museum of Extraordinary Things, Scribner), Wally Lamb (We Are Water, Harper), Wiley Cash (This Dark Road to Mercy, William Morrow), John McMillian (Beatles vs Stones, Simon & Schuster), Lily Koppel (The Astronaut Wives Club, Grand Central), Anton DiScalfani (The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls, Riverhead), and Hugh Howey (Sand, CreateSpace), braved the inclement weather for the three-day event. While only three authors were forced to cancel appearances, many attendees were kept away by the elements. “We are certain that the winter storms affected our attendance negatively,” said executive director Robin Gold. “We got hundreds of emails and phone calls from disappointed people who had planned to come to the Festival from out of town and had cancelled trips because of the snow storms.”… Read More

Improvements Elevate the 2014 Savannah Book Festival Visitor Experience

(SAVANNAH, GA) Numerous changes designed to improve the visitor experience are in store for the main day of the Savannah Book Festival, Feb. 15. In addition to more than 30 bestselling authors, there are new book signing policies, speaking venues, transportation, food offerings and seat-capacity restrictions.

New Venues: There will be strict enforcement by the City of Savannah Fire Marshall of seating-capacity requirements in all venues this year. To accommodate the growing Festival audience, two new venues will be used for presenting authors—the Lutheran Church of the Ascension Sanctuary and Fellowship Hall on Wright Square.

Even with the additional seating, however, Robin Gold, the Festival’s executive director, advises, “If there is an author you particularly want to see, you should get to the venue early enough to make sure you have a seat.”

Transportation and Parking: Getting to the Festival will be easier than ever this year. Free trolley service will be offered all day between the Jewish Education Alliance at 5111 Abercorn St., Senior Citizens Inc. at 3025 Bull Street, and Telfair Square. All city parking garages will provide parking for a flat fee of $5 all day.

Dining: Both Barnes Restaurants and Savannah Coffee Roasters will be selling food in Telfair Square. Trinity United Methodist Church, one of the Festival venues on Telfair Square, will offer an indoor “Food and Fellowship” dining area during lunch hours. Though food will not be for sale in the Fellowship area, visitors are welcome to bring their own food in for an indoor picnic.

Book Signing: As a reminder, only books purchased at the Festival or online through Follett in advance will be signed by presenting authors. A signing card must be shown as proof of purchase. One cashier in the Book Sales tent will be designated for Sponsors and LITERATI to help lines move quickly.

“A primary reason for authors participating in book festivals is to sell books,” says Gold. “The Festival’s aim is to promote book sales so that authors of such high caliber will continue to participate.”

The Savannah Book Festival Inc. is an independent, non-profit corporation led by a volunteer board of directors and committed to keeping all main day events free and open to the public. The 2014 Savannah Book Festival, presented by Georgia Power, will be held Presidents Day weekend, Feb. 13-16, 2014, in locations in and around Telfair and Wright Squares in Savannah’s Historic District. For more information, please contact Executive Director Robin Gold at 912.598.4040, or visit

2014 Savannah Book Festival Explores the Spirit

(SAVANNAH, GA) Science or faith? Miracle or hoax? Three renowned authors who have delved into spiritual issues in recently published books will discuss their experiences and research during presentations at the 2014 Savannah Book Festival, Feb. 13-16, 2014.

Mitch Albom, whose Tuesdays With Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven were both New York Times bestsellers, will discuss his latest release, The First Phone Call From Heaven, in the Festival’s keynote presentation on Friday, Feb. 14, at 6 p.m. at Trustees Theater. When phones start ringing in a small town with voices saying they are calling from Heaven, townies – and readers – will wonder if it is a miracle, or proof of an afterlife.

Neurosurgeon Eben Alexander will offer his Proof of Heaven in the Festival’s closing presentation on Sunday, Feb. 16, at 3 p.m. at Trustees Theater. The book, on the Times’ bestseller list for more than a year, traces Alexander’s own journey into the afterlife after a near-death experience. Alexander believes that science will prove one day that Heaven does exist.

On the Festival’s main day, Saturday, Feb. 15, when all presentations are free and open to the public, author Alice Hoffman will discuss both her soon-to-be-published The Museum of Extraordinary Things and her recent Survival Lessons. Hoffman, who wrote the best-selling Practical Magic and The Dovekeepers, wrote Survival Lessons as a self guidebook after she was diagnosed with cancer. The author has said, “I wrote Survival Lessons to remind myself of the beauty of life, something that is all too easy to overlook during a crisis, illness or loss.”

The Savannah Book Festival Inc. is an independent, non-profit corporation led by a volunteer board of directors and committed to keeping all main day events free and open to the public. The 2014 Savannah Book Festival, presented by Georgia Power, will be held Presidents Day weekend, Feb. 13-16, 2014, in locations in and around Telfair and Wright Squares in Savannah’s Historic District. For more information, please contact Executive Director Robin Gold at 912.598.4040, or visit

Important Upcoming SBF dates

The Savannah Book Festival has some important dates approaching, so we wanted to remind you to mark your calendar:

New this year - SBF supporters can now order recently released books by Festival authors online through Follett Books, SBF’s book seller, with guaranteed delivery for Christmas if ordered by December 20th. PLUS, each order includes a book signing card to use at the Festival!  PLUS, PLUS, your order benefits SBF because Follett contributes 20% of each sale to the Festival!  PLUS, PLUS, PLUS, as a LITERATI member or Sponsor, you’ll enjoy a 10% discount on all purchases!

As a reminder: If you’re planning to attend the Festival and would like to have a book signed by an author, you must purchase a book (with a signing card) either online or at the Festival through Follett Books. This pre-sale service will enable you to read and/or give your book and still get it signed at the Festival!

For detailed information on advance book purchases please click here.

Other important dates are quickly approaching for ticket sales to our feature events at Trustees Theater (Opening, Keynote and Closing Address). Since these events typically sell out quickly, we encourage you to call the Savannah Box Office at the appropriate time. There are no ticket sales through the SBF office.

2015 On Sale Dates:

LITERATI members and Sponsors: January 2 – 9, 2015

General Public: January 10, 2015

For information on LITERATI membership, please click here. For additional information about ticket sales and procedures, please click here.

There is extensive information about the Festival on our website or you can call our office at 912-598-4040.

Warm Wishes for a Happy Holiday Season and New Year,

The Savannah Book Festival Board of Directors and Staff

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