…Book fairs that is! 🙂 It’s that time of the year again, every publisher is gearing up for two major book fairs. Bologna and London.
I recall going to my first book fair. I was so very green. A new writer and illustrator, fresh faced, confident and hungry to get published. I had been preparing for this day for months. Trawling through the Writers and Artists Yearbook to familiarise myself with the companies and potential contact names. Fighting with the online booking system to try to make appointments (and failing). I had left it all a bit too late. So many companies had booked their time with their clients months in advance. There was no hope for me to get even a few minutes of their time, but I had registered and paid my entrance fee, I was going anyway!
I prepared all my work for presenting to potential publishers, packed my bags, traveled to the fair, logged in, a very nice gent scanned me into the building, I checked my surplus into the cloakroom and then stopped.
I was there! A joy, an anticipation filled me… Then I thought… What now?
I found myself becoming overwhelmed by the sheer size of the place. The endless aisles, crammed with stand after stand.It doesn’t matter how much preparation you do, it never seems enough! I had no idea what to do next. So I stood and watched what everyone else was doing. Everyone seemed to have a purpose, they seemed to know where they were going and I realised that very few people were alone, as I was. I must have looked daft as I stood there motionless. My mind reeling with advice for myself. ‘take a deep breath’ ‘let’s find the children’s publishers’ ‘don’t panic!’
That last one was the one that brought me out of my stupor, then I took a deep breath and went to find a map and an adviser to help me understand how to best use my time and where would be good to go first. The map was doable, but the adviser was not. So I took my first step…The hall was immense, so many aisles with stands of differing sizes, each one full of people. Some in meetings, some browsing the bookshelves, but all of them busy and with purpose.
I wandered around for the first hour, I found the stands of the companies I had researched. I even managed to talk to a receptionist on one and got a contact name. This is it, I thought, this is what I am here to do. Get names, meet people, talk talk talk!
And that is exactly what I did. My first fair didn’t get me the big publishing deal I was hoping for, instead it started me on an even more exciting journey -not that I realised it at the time- I started my journey of discovery, discovering the highs and lows of publishing and the imminent changes that faced the industry as a whole. I started to learn the inner workings of the industry machine and I realised I could provide support for the huge machine and help to maintain its efficiency in the future.
My advice if you are attending a book fair for the first time:
Prepare prepare prepare, but be flexible once there!
Know why you are going and set yourself goals for each day you attend. Start small and build up but most of all – talk to as many people as you possibly can.