Across the world different countries hold book fairs, off the top of my head some big ones being Bologna, Frankfurt, BookExpo America and London. London Book Fair has been running for over half a century and generates more and more attendees as the years pass. Each year the LBF highlights a country or countries, this year being the Baltics while last year was Poland. I first looked at attending London Book Fair when I chose publishing as a career but the book fair is so much more. After attending I wanted to share my experience, hopefully persuade some other people to go one time and offer advice in case you do decide to go.
- You book your ticket online – it’s £45 per ticket which is for all 3 days (FREE if you are a student). You can print off the ticket beforehand or queue on the day – it is then put in a lanyard for you to wear throughout your time there.
- You can pick and choose when you go, it lasts 3 days but you may decided just to stay for one or two. You can also arrive and leave when you like, so if you want to go out for lunch somewhere near by then go for it.
- Pre-plan what you are going to wear. Some tips: It gets very busy so it can get hot in there so I would say don’t wear anything to thick or a huge coat (though if you do, then you can always leave it in the cloakroom), it is primarily a business function so dress smart-casual so you are comfortable but not in joggers and a hoody. Finally, wear comfortable shoes. You are on your feet pretty much all day, you will be walking a fair amount, it will be a lifesaver if you compromise for your most comfortable shoes over your most fashionable.
Where I stayed:
The book fair is held at Olympia in Kensington, where you stay is up to what you would find most convenient and in your price range. I stayed in an Airbnb which was a 13 minute walk from the stadium and was booked about a month before we went. I stayed with some university friends and we each paid £90 but from our research you are looking at roughly £50 and upwards for 2 nights and 3 days in an Airbnb. A previous year I went with one friend and stayed in a smaller apartment which was more expensive but very comfortable, close proximity to the venue and quiet; ideal for long days at the fair.
Other options include booking a hotel but these get booked quick so make sure you get it sorted early and can be very expensive depending on where you are staying. Another option is to stay in a hostel. There are many in and around Kensington all for a good price. We ultimately chose Airbnb for better chance of getting a good sleep and the cheaper price to some hotels.
Tips – book early! I would personally recommend an airbnb as it is so much cheaper in the long run in terms of food (I went to the local supermarket and bought some pasta and sauce, some bread and spent about £5 in total which sorted out evening meal and breakfast for the 3 days).
What the fair looked like
It is huge, there are bustling people everyone, thousands of books spreading into several sections, filling every corner of it with stands and stalls. They provide maps so take one and they signpost everything so it is relatively easy to find your way around. I would recommend spending some time just wandering so you can get a feel for where everything is. In each stand there are people working and negotiating so you can’t necessarily go wandering through all the stands but it’s great to walk by and be nosy at what they have laid out.
In various areas around the building are seminars, each having its own number of seats so if you are going to attend some, try to arrive early for them to ensure you’re not stood for an hour! Some of these are held in separate rooms others are randomly in the middle of the fair.
There are various cafes spread around the venue but I would recommend bringing some snacks with you as it can get tiring. If you are on a budget then you can bring your own lunch and there are water fountains around to fill up your water bottles. There are not really many tables and chairs so each day I ended up sat on the floor in a quieter area with my friends, but you won’t be the only one so don’t worry.
- See authors speak – this year included Dame Jaqueline Wilson ‘Tracey Beaker’ and Jojo Moyes ‘Me Before You’
- Freebies – as you walk round many stands are giving out various freebies such as books, bags, pens, badges, bookmarks, sweets and much more. You may have to approach the stand and ask, others will just be handing it out. Be respectful though, have a chat with the vendors, you are getting something free after all so it’s nice to give them some of your time (This can be a great time to network as well).
- Seminars – there are so many seminars that cover a range of topics. There are author specific seminars, poetry specific seminars, careers seminars, publishing seminars; the list goes on.
- The people – everyone is so friendly. You’ll find people with similar interests and some with completely opposite interests, either way you’ll find yourself having discussions with people you might never have met if not for attending LBF.
Tips: pre-plan what you want to attend and then you can organise where you need to be. Also, you may find that there are three things you want to attend all on at the same time so you’ll just have to pick the one you want to see the most and hopefully the other two are talked about online via twitter using hashtags.
Some notable seminars I went to this year included:
- The wonderful world of Mr Men and Little Miss
- Mental Health: Is there a right way to publish it? – showcased some great new books coming out in a couple of weeks which I can’t wait to buy.
- Social Mobility, Apprenticeships and Broadening the search for UK publishing
- Why we commissioned these books…
- Why poetry is Booming?
- YA Spotlight
- How to get into publishing
- How to get ahead in publishing
There are so many options for so many topics; there is always something for everyone.
If you’re planning on networking then here are some tips that I’ve learnt:
- CV’s – last year I brought them as full print outs, this year I brought business cards with the highlights and my contact details. If you are attending the bookcareers clinic you will want to bring a full copy as this is where you have a one to one discussing your CV and getting advice. You have to book ahead for this clinic.
- Bring conversation starters – make a list of things that you could use to start up a conversation – ‘Have you attended before?’, ‘I can’t wait for this seminar…’, ‘What brings you’re here?’ It’ll eventually get easier starting conversations.
- Attend the seminars and events – if you’re sat in the same seminar as someone you more than likely share some sort of interest, use that to strike up a conversation.
- Go to the after-hours events – the informal drinks are always great because everyone has loosened up from their day at work and things are a lot more relaxed
- Be brave, be confident, and worst comes to worst – fake it til you make it
The book fair isn’t just for people who work in publishing. It is for students who want to explore the possibility of working in publishing, people who want to understand more about books, help and advice for authors, networking opportunities for bloggers, journalists, students, and everyone else. If any of this sounds like it’s something interesting to you, then please go. If you are looking at publishing for a career, then please go; the things you’ll learn and the people you’ll meet will be unbelievably beneficial.
If you have any questions then please comment below and I will help any way I can! Has anyone else been before? Did you enjoy it?