Wednesday, 9 April 2014

London Book Fair - Tues 8th 2014

This week the London Book Fair is taking place at Earls Court where thousands of publishing professionals from around the world unite under one roof in what I can only describe as Santa’s grotto for the industry. Agents, editors, authors, rights, sales and marketing reps – you name it, they are all there meeting, doing deals, and of course the mandatory bit of schmoozing.

You can imagine how exciting this was for a publishing newbie like me yesterday!
Earls court 1 & 2 were divided into aisles and rows (although that didn’t prevent me from getting a bit lost in the labyrinth of stalls!). The big names such as Penguin, Harper Collins and OUP had huge spaces which looked like pop-up offices, meanwhile some of the smaller businesses let their signage and book displays do all the talking; I particularly liked Choc Lit’s eye-catching bright pink exhibition of their women’s romantic fiction and enjoyed chatting to their rep about their e-book/print packages (I’ve said it before and will say it again: chocolate+books = winning combo!)

Alongside the abundance of exhibitions, the LBF put on a range of seminars and talks throughout the day. I went to the “Introduction to publishing” talk in the morning at the Author HQ – although targeted primarily at authors, this was a great way for me to learn more about the ‘agent to bookseller’ process.
The “encouraging children to read” seminar was presented by the editorial director of Booked – a magazine aimed at enthusing teenagers to read by associating books with the things that usually grab their attention (e.g. celebrity), and by offering various competitions and prizes. I’m hugely motivated by the idea that we need to engage children in reading by making books relevant to their world, so projects like these seem so worthwhile.  On that note, I also stopped at an exhibition offering samples of a new educational magazine: Amazing! which incorporates cross-subject aspects of the curriculum to attract students’ interest in a way that normal textbooks may not achieve.
In the afternoon I attended the SYP’s “How to get ahead in publishing” talk. Here, Stephanie Milner, James Long, Matt Haslum, Oli Munson and Miriam Robinson talked about how they got ahead in their various roles. They were all incredibly humble about their success, yet it was clear that none of them would be in the position they are now without working extremely hard and taking opportunities with open arms. Many of them had also seen their careers move away from publishing-specific roles, which only proved to give them a greater awareness of what the industry needs when re-entering it. Demonstrating this flexibility and scope seems essential.
The most resonant piece of advice from the talk was to "be nice" and to think beyond your desk - publishing is such a reputation & contact-based industry, it is essential to have a generous attitude and to never let the limitations of the job define what you are willing to contribute.
In terms of creating contacts, it really struck me that it is through SYP that I’ll meet the editors, agents and publicists of the future, so I’m really looking forward to being able to attend their events on a much more regular basis once I graduate and move back closer to London!
I ended my day by speaking to some delightful students and tutors from Oxford Brookes University about their publishing masters course. This is something that has been in the back of my mind for a while, but for which I seem unable to justify the cost. I am going to persevere with the intern-route for now and see where it leads me, i.e. hopefully to a job!

To sum up my LBF day in three words: enlightening, thrilling and motivating. I only hope that one day I will be on the other side of the exhibition stand!

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