Mar 29, 2014

After Bologna Children's Book Fair 2014 - Part 1

The entrance

I'm home after three crazy days in Bologna
As I predicted, it was a truly great experience. 
So many things happening all at once, so many people to talk to... and of course for an illustrator working alone all day, this is totally unusual. 

There are so many things I could say about this experience that it is difficult to know where to start. 

Maybe I could start saying I have a very good feeling about the contacts I made at the fair. 
I managed to show my portfolio to a lot of editors, publishers and art directors and I received mainly positive reactions. 
I also managed to give away all 45 mini portfolios I made, and everybody was very impressed by the fact I was leaving them with a sort of mini book, instead of a simple business card or postcard. I think making those was well worth it! 

At the fair
Now that I've been there, I feel like I can give a few practical tips on how to survive the fair at best! 
Here you go... 

-Bring your own lunch! There were so many people at the fair that my lunch break on Monday was a true nightmare. I queued for 20 minutes to find out they run out of vegetarian options. So I had to find another cafe (there are a few) and queue again and in the end the only vegetarian option they had was pizza. Then I queued for 30 more minutes to get my pizza. 
That night I went to a supermarket and bought some ingredients to make my own sandwiches for the following days. Best idea ever!
Otherwise, some friends suggested you buy lunch right outside the fair (not sure where tho) before getting in in the morning. VERY recommended, especially if you don't eat gluten or meat (that's pretty much all the sell). 

-Attend for three days at least. The first day wasn't great for me in terms of appointments but I managed to book some meetings for the following days, when people's schedules were still quite free.
However, Wednesday for me was the most successful day, since everybody was less busy and had more time to spare and look at my portfolio. So I would highly recommend to spend at least 3 days there, if you're serious about finding contacts. 

At the fair

-Don't waste time with the publishers that don't display books with your style. The few times I tried to propose myself to such publishers (I thought, why not? you never know!) they rejected me straight away. It's a waist of time and also kills the mood. 
I know it's tempting going to every one but try to be picky. Publishers have a very clear idea of what they're looking for. 

-Bring a neat, compact portfolio. I printed mine with Blurb and everybody really liked the fact it was neat and bounded as a book. Much easier and faster to look at instead of the big a3 portfolios with loose sheets lots of people had. 

-After giving your card, always ask for THEIR business card. I read this in a blog last year while gathering info for Bologna. Best advice ever!

-Wear VERY comfortable shoes. If they happen to be ugly, don't worry: no one will pay attention. 

Bologna city centre  

-If you can, train beforehand. I'm not joking, your body will thank you enormously, trust me! There's nothing worse than working while being tired and physically exhausted. I failed on this but next year I'm definitely going to train!! 

-Try to do a quick tour of all the halls on the first day. This is because lots of the publishers put out a sign with general meeting times for illustrators. 
Also while doing this, ask to the big publishers if they book appointments for the following days. Some of them do but their schedules fill out quite quickly. 
I missed the opportunity to show my portfolio to Milan, a big french publisher because I turned out at its stand only on Wednesday and the appointment schedule was already booked out. Damn it!! 

-Put something on the Illustrators Wall, you never know who's going to see it!!

My bear poster on the wall. It's not super clear but I built a pocket to put postcards in

-Bring a lot of promotional materials. In my case, I brought some mini portfolios along with lots of postcards. I think next year I will invest in making more mini portfolios and less postcards, since I used them a lot more and I ended up having lots of postcards leftovers. So choose whatever you think would work best for you and make lots of it to give away to as much people as you can. 

-Bring a pen and a notebook, to write down email addresses, names or meeting times. 

-Wear layers of clothes you can take off or put on. It was a bit tricky because outside was freezing cold and inside was quite warm. So instead of a coat I wore a light jacket with lots of layers underneath. Next time I'll make sure to wear clothes with pockets too (for some reasons most of my clothes don't have them!)

-My accommodation was quite close to the fair, which was great, so I could easily go there by foot. However, the city centre was quite far (30-40 minutes walking) and at night, after walking all day at the fair, there was no chance I would walk all the way to the city to meet with friends for dinner. So maybe the best would be to find a place right in the middle between the fair and the centre which is where everybody usually goes for dinner. 
Or be ready to pay a taxi (like I did). 

The view from my room
-If you have some, bring a few published samples. People who had the time to interview me were interested in seeing those too. I read publishers would like to see dummies too, I didn't have any but I suppose it's a good idea to bring them along as well. 

In the next post I'll write about my personal experience at the fair (impressions, emotions, dark moments... yes, I had those too!!). Stay tuned!! 


  1. Thank you so much for all the advice, it's so useful. I'm happy that it worked well for you.

  2. great advice laura! thank you! cant wait to go..hopefully next year ;)

  3. wow thank you for sharing your experiences! I love your bound mini portfolio idea too. I would love to go to the Bologna Book Fair someday!

  4. Thank you for all your tips, I found them extremely useful while preparing my first visit to the fair this year! Keep up the good work!!