Sunday, 31 March 2013

Thoughts and Photos from Bologna Children's Book Fair 2013

I recently returned from the International Children's Book Fair in Bologna where I was exhibiting work with the Cambridge School of Art at their stand, which was superbly put together and run by students and staff on the course.

I first visited the fair in 2010 when still a student on the course and I remember being over-awed by the scale of the event. I didn't exactly make the most of my time there but this time I'd resolved to attack it a bit more and try to get more of myself out there. I wore a shirt and tie (anyone familiar with my usual dress-sense will know this is a big deal) and went around with my portfolio and chanced my luck at the various publisher stands, hoping to get a meeting. This worked to some degree; I was lucky to get a meeting with one publisher simply because at that precise moment they had been stood up by someone else and had a quick window in which to see my work. Some publishers claimed not to have anyone at the fair who could view and make decisions on a portfolio, but it seems different people were told different things - my friend who has a book out and an agent seemed to be able to get a meeting more often than not. I was armed with business cards and postcards though, and I always asked if I could leave one at the stands where I couldn't get a meeting, and more often than not this was fine with the publisher. Naturally, I always left a card at the stands where I could get a meeting, too.

For most part I was cold-calling the stands, having only been able to set up the one meeting before the trip. I turned up at that particular meeting - for one of the biggest children's publishers around - at the agreed time but there was no knowledge on their part that the meeting existed. After borrowing a friend's smartphone I was able to show them the email and luckily got to rearrange the meeting for the next day. I learnt that it certainly pays to be persistent (without becoming an annoyance), and to have a friend with a smartphone.

Overall it was a positive experience and while there may not seem to be much immediate reward among all the chaos, getting your work/name/face out there can never be a bad thing and is a good platform to build on. I'd recommend it to anyone thinking about going next year, though the trip may be made more worthwhile by arranging meeting yourself a few months before the fair (or instead having an agent to do it for you!).

I managed to take a few photos while over there. Not pictured: The incredible daily pizza lunches (worth the trip alone in my opinion...)

...that last one was the view from our apartment balcony on one of the better days weather-wise. There weren't many arguments over the sun-loungers.

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