The London Book Fair 2016
Year on year, The London Book Fair (LBF) provides authors and industry professionals with invaluable opportunities to network and learn. It’s the perfect space for budding authors to exchange contacts and receive tips and advice from experts in the field. Agents, publishers, illustrators, printers, editors and providers of digital solutions are just some of the people that you can rub shoulders with at LBF.
Welcoming 25,000 attendees last year and celebrating its 45th year in 2016, LBF is well established and certainly worth a visit. This year, it’s rounding off London Book & Screen Week, so there will be a healthy dose of Shakespearian influences and performances throughout the three days.
What Happens at the London Book Fair?
It might surprise you, but although the Booksellers Association (BA) is one of LBF’s sponsors, the main aim of exhibitors isn’t to sell books at the Fair. In fact, most stands will only have a modest selection of books on display as a way of showcasing their best or most unusual titles to demonstrate their strengths – or perhaps to cash in on a title that has enjoyed an unprecedented amount of press coverage.
I’d advise starting with a purpose, especially if you’re only attending for one of the three days, otherwise it’s easy to become overwhelmed.
Make no mistake – this is an opportunity for companies to sell themselves. Unlike many events in the literary calendar, the LBF is as much a trade fair as it is an opportunity for companies to display their wares. The symbiotic relationship between authors and others within the book industry is perfectly represented in this environment. There are so many things that prospective or existing authors can get involved with during the event, though, especially if they plan their time well…
Making the most of your time at the fair
Of most interest to authors is the extensive programme of seminars on offer. Make a list of the Insights Seminars that you hope to attend and make a beeline for a seminar schedule and a map when you arrive, to ensure you make it to any that are of interest. This year, there is a comprehensive list of back-to-back talks and seminars squeezed into the programme. Talks are on a plethora of topics ranging from the possible predicted impact of artificial intelligence on future literature, to case studies about people who have self-published.
Take some business cards, if you have them and target the stands of those companies that you’ve researched online beforehand. There’s definitely a place for meandering between stands, but I’d advise starting with a purpose, especially if you’re only attending for one of the three days, otherwise it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Additionally, there are many sessions for people within the creative industries – so if you are a freelance editor or illustrator, it’s definitely worth talking to companies who might like to use your services, and seeing if you can book into a relevant event or two while you’re there as well.
Author HQ is a fantastic resource that’s almost entirely aimed at authors. It’s essentially a free-to-access area that guides writers through the inundation of publishing possibilities that are available to them. They host Author HQ seminars that explain the minutiae of writing and publishing. They also offer Agent One-to-Ones and The Write Stuff, which is hailed as the Dragon’s Den of the publishing world, where authors pitch their work to a panel of agents. Unfortunately, these events book up fast, so if you haven’t booked in this year then you can’t feature, but it’s still well worth dropping by Author HQ as there will be an abundance of advice from professionals who know their fields.
What not to expect…
Keep in mind that this is chiefly a trade event and while authors are welcomed, most commercial publishers are not there to attract or sign up new talent. In fact, if you don’t have an appointment, you’re very unlikely to get past the stand’s gatekeeper to talk to anyone… though never say never – it has been known to happen! So, have a plan, make appointments in advance (if you can) and when you attend, do so expecting to come up against a few ‘brush-offs’ from seemingly disinterested publishing companies.
Having said that, there’s just so much to immerse yourself in as a writer at LBF – that’s without even mentioning the various celebrity appearances. Last year, Conchita Wurst (Eurovision winner) was a guest speaker. The year before, I bumped into a famous TV gardener and a few years back Gordon Brown (then Prime Minister) stumbled onto our stand. LBF always has an excellent line-up of well-known visiting authors, as well. This year sees a range of authors including Jeffrey Archer, Marian Keyes, Julian Fellowes and Tracey Chevalier. I’ll certainly be attending; I can’t wait.
Keep an eye out for our follow-up piece on the LBF in video format, coming soon.