11 April 2014

How to work a book fair

The London Book Fair: in the belly of a vast exhibition centre, the gentle illustrator is confronted with stretches of purple and lime green exhibition stands lined with books. In the children's book section, yellows and shouty pinks sprinkled with glitter vie for attention under the neon lights. 

Yikes. Most unlovely. I found myself heading for the door within the hour, grabbing a tea and banana bread from the cart outside for a break and some sunshine before giving it another go.

Here's a survival guide for the visually sensitive.

  • Focus is key. Hone in on the talks that offer something of value, slowly walk the aisles and explore when a book looks particularly inviting. Ignore the rest, or try to.
  • Check out the non-English markets
  • Arrive early for the portfolio show and tell, grab a ticket and bring along an actual  portfolio, as in paper in leather bound cover. Ten minutes max with a random publishing house, but still. I hope to be there next year.
  • Ask for a publisher's Children's Book catalogue. Most publishers are happy to hand them out.
  • Make forays outside for regular doses of fresh, (Earl's Court) air.
  • Arrange to meet up with a friend. Fairs can be overwhelming.

I did enjoy a talk on becoming a children's book illustrator hosted in the Children's Hub where seasoned pro Chris Wormell showed slides of the ideas pages of his sketchbooks: stuffed full of notes and thumbnail sketches, not a single idea wasted. Ideas that have turned into one book after another. As well as many a book that didn't make it, but that's all part of the fun.

Templar Art Director Mike Jolley told us that he enjoys receiving submissions. And looking at blogs. More so than websites, he said he finds blogs far more interesting. Good to know, not so?

And for me, the treasure of the day was in the foreign languages section. Belgian illustrator Anne Herbaut's new book je t'aime tellement que for Casterman. True, the cover is pink, but it is, I think you might agree, a thing of beauty. 

Phew, at last - something genuinely lovely.

How do you survive trade fairs? Any ideas welcomed - please do leave a comment below, I love hearing your thoughts.

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