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My First London Book Fair & Survival Tips

Last week I attended my first London Book Fair. It was three days of non-stop talks and panels surrounded by book enthusiasts; all in all, an incredible event. I was expecting to feel overwhelmed after being warned at the size of the venue (London’s Olympia) and at the amount of people attending, but to my surprise I felt relatively comfortable and found myself enjoying the buzzing atmosphere and tangible excitement of those in attendance.

Being a newcomer to the publishing industry, I attended both of the SYP (Society of Young Publishers) panels. “How to Get Into Publishing” was held in a large room and yet was still packed out with new/future publishers and advice about everything from interviews to the importance of cover letters and standing out. “How to Get Ahead in Publishing” followed this and imparted wisdom about handling tricky situations with bosses and colleagues once a job had been secured. One of the most inspiring messages that came from these two panels was the importance placed on enthusiasm and passion for books, and ideas about how to convey this through a cover letter and at an interview were some of the most useful pieces of advice from LBF for me.

I attended the “Trailblazer Panel: The Future of Publishing: How to Thrive in the Evolving Book World” which not only discussed the future of publishing but also the current most-pressing issues within the industry and what needs to be done to evolve to a point where the future goals can be achieved. One of the issues that was spoken about at length in this panel was diversity and inclusivity. Until there is diversity in the publishing industry, then can it be representative of the target market. A way that was mentioned to address this was to start with young people- Heather McDaid of 404 Ink spoke of Nicola Sturgeon’s literacy initiative to get children reading and how positive the reception of this has been so far, across the nation. Representation in children’s books is a key way in which children can see future careers and roles for themselves and a crucial way to inspire young people to be interested in education.

Something I wasn’t expecting to be treated to while attending LBF was the appearances, talks and book-signings from authors. Myself and some friends from my university course went to hear Jacqueline Wilson in conversation with Julia Eccleshare and in the queue for the book signing afterwards, spoke about how important she was to many of us growing up. We spoke about how many issues, (often taboo in children’s literature) she wrote about and explained for so many young people and the impact it had on our own childhoods. It was so incredible to hear the vision she has for her books and the ways in which she hopes to help young readers and their parents, giving examples of fans she had met, and their stories. This again explained the importance of passionate publishers who are so needed to bring these stories to the reader and made me, once again, feel extremely lucky and excited to be part of that.

Tips for London Book Fair

1. Dress to be comfortable!

London Book Fair is huge; you’ll be walking a large amount of the day and spending most of it on your feet, so wear appropriate footwear.

2. Plan your days beforehand.

The London Book Fair website and app are updated with the dates and times of the upcoming events so you can prioritise your must- see panels and talks.

3. Realise that you don’t need to stay 9-5 every day.

The book fair is exhausting, it’s hot, requires a lot of energy and effort both physically and mentally. Why not enjoy the events you most want to see and take it easy, there’s no point turning up at 9am if the only event you’re really interested in starts in the afternoon. Be kind to yourself.

4. Come with questions.

Many sessions have a q & a section at the end and the audience is encouraged to ask questions to the panel. Be prepared to arrive at panels early in order to find seating or a spot near the front.

5. Bring business cards.

LBF is a great way to make new contacts and if you do end up in a conversation and would like to make that connection, a business card may be the perfect way to keep in contact. In a similar thread; LinkedIn and Twitter seem to be the most used social media profiles to have in the publishing industry at the moment.

6. Bring a notepad and pen.

This may be an obvious point but it is always worth bringing note-taking supplies to write down important points, quotes and names from the many talks at the event.

7. Plan some social activities too.

The book fair does not have to be all about business, why not use the evenings to catch up over drinks with colleagues and friends. This is a great way of unwinding from what are three stressful and busy days.

8. Bring your own food.

Food at the Book Fair is not only expensive but the lines are long and when trying to get from one talk to the next, a quick lunch from home may be your best bet!

9. Bring water!

Similarly to the last point, there are many stations across the venue to fill up water bottles. Make use of them and keep hydrated whilst walking around all day.

10. Have fun!

There are so many inspiring speakers and people to meet. Make the most of the Fair and speak to people.


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