Mar 31, 2014

After Bologna Children's Book Fair 2014 - part 2

I'm still ruminate on my days at the fair, they were a tangle of emotions and events. It's taking me a while to metabolise everything. 
Here a report of each single day... 

Illustrators wall

My first day was a bit depressing. Nobody seemed to have time to look at my portfolio, publishers were all very busy and the fair was sooooo crowded. Going to the bathroom meant wasting at least 30 precious minutes. 
Also, I was very anxious, I wanted to do everything and being everywhere at the same moment. I felt I didn't have enough time to do all I wanted and every minute seemed incredibly precious. 
So I run like a crazy person from hall to hall without taking a break, being really grumpy about all the wasting-time queueing and, as you can imagine, by evening I was a mess. 
Also, both the appointment I managed to schedule months earlier with two big publishers didn't happen since they basically forgot about me. 
Not exactly a good day. 

The main space at the entrance

My second day went definitely better. The fair was visibly less crowded and everything seemed a bit easier. Maybe because I started understand how things were going to be done, not sure, but I finally managed to show my portfolio to people and leave a lot of promotional material. 
By 5pm I was so incredibly tired I could barely walk, so I decided to go home take a shower and nap. Best decision ever! Completely refreshed, I went out for dinner with a bunch of people and eat tortelli. That's the way!

Dinner with some illustrators

My last day, Wednesday, was a piece of cake. Compared to Monday, the fair was deserted and everybody was much more generous with their time. I even had a few meetings in which the publisher and I digressed about my imminent move to Bristol or my life in Australia... It was definitely a much more pleasant way to get to know people!
Also, lots of other publishers were dedicating a couple of hours to see illustrators.
I managed to give away all the mini portfolios I had left (about 15) and at the end of the day I felt like I spoke with tons of people!
It was definitely my most successful day at the fair. 

I think next year I'll try to stay Thursday as well, people told me publishers like to get rid of books so they don't have to carry them home. To me, it seems like a good enough reason to stay!

Some of the awarded books

Visually speaking, in my opinion no one beats Italy, Spain and Korea. Illustrators from those country have a sense of colour and composition that really amazes me. 
My aim is to look more into those country's publications and try to learn something from those geniuses...

Also, I was VERY impressed by the work made by the students at the MA Children's book illustration of Cambridge.
Their work was astonishing!! The stand had dummies everywhere the students creates during the course. I couldn't believe my eyes. I predict an excellent career for at least a third of those students. A friend of mine told me the course is very hard but incredible. 
I could SERIOUSLY think about doing the course. Maybe in a couple of years time... 

Cambridge School stand (Marta Altes in the left corner)

I think the most useful comments about my work were given by the publishers who rejected me. 
In particular, I was told my style was very "British" and therefore not suitable for a lot of publishers. It wasn't the first occasion people told me that, but when you hear the same thing from four different people on the same day, well, it definitely gets you. 
I feel I have already a better idea of which market my work could fit in and what are the different trends in each different part of the world. 
It such a complex field, this fair definitely made me understand I still have A LOT to learn and develop and A LONG WAY to go. 

I read a lot before going to the fair. I wanted to be prepared! I'm that sort of person, I like to do be organised, especially when it comes to work. 
Anyways, everybody I spoke to said the fair was incredibly huge. And their were right, it is very big. But honestly, when I went there, I really wished there was more. There were four halls in total and it might be I'm a very eager person (or maybe only masochist) but I really wish there was at least one more hall to browse. 

Malaysian stand

My resolutions for next year:

-Attend some talk. I didn't attend ANY talk. I felt like I had to much too do to just sit down and listen. 
And there is so much going on all at once that I didn't even noticed that both Oliver Jeffers and Bianca Pitzorno (my favourite Italian children's book writer excellence!!) gave Crazy, right?? Especially because I had downloaded the events schedule and underlined what 
I don't know exactly how I missed that, but this is the proof there is so much interesting stuff going on all at once. 

-Attend events outside the fair. There were lots of interesting events all over the city especially exhibitions I really wanted to attend. But in the evening I was always so tired I just couldn't bare the idea of going out again. 
But, as I said already, next year I'm going to train (and maybe try to be less anxious) and hopefully I won't be burnt out at 6pm! 

-Coming along with other people. I think it might be good coming along with other illustrators, especially for moral support. Even coming with a friend or boyfriend (a met a lovely girl who came with her mom, so sweet!!) could be useful, especially if they offer to carry your bags!! :) 

-Buy some books. I spent 3 days looking at books and in the end I didn't buy even one. Insane, I know. Next year I'll make a fund only for buying books!!



  1. Hey Laura!

    Nice to see that you enjoyed the fair. I totally recommend the the MA in Children's Book Illustration. I just graduated and it was amazing. You are very brave to go to the fair all lone, I wouldn't have dared.

    I was so glad to be there with the course so it felt like a fun school trip. The second time around things are easier since the stands are all in pretty much the same place.

    I also missed Oliver, what a bummer, some of my course even met him in a pub later.

    Yes I know the "it's too British" comment. I get that when I go to the German publishers (I'm German) but when I go to the UK ones I'm told "it's too continental"...whatever that means. I think what's important is is that it's from the heart because that will show no matter what. Your work is great so I wouldn't worry.

    And hey looks like you missed the massive book shop which was hidden away. It's an extra hall just with books for sale. Check it out next time!

    Wishing you all the best and hoping you get some good results from your Bologna trip!!

    Ariane ^^

    1. Hi Ariene,

      thanks so much for your lovely comment!!
      I'm glad I'm not the only one who gets the "it's too british" comment, ahah:)

      Anyway, thanks for recommending the Cambridge MA, I think I'm definitely going to do it one day!

      I hope the fair will give you some great results too!!
      All the best,


  2. Hello Laura,

    Very helpful all the things you write above!

    Congrats for going alone to the fair..I couldn't do that are very brave! :)

    I didn't attend this year..unfortunately..but I 'd been to the fair 2 years ago..
    and it was exactly like you said..crazy, exhausting, fun days..and inspiring too!!

    Next year I will definitely would be very exciting and interesting to organize something like an appointment from Facebook friends( who are illustrators and we interact with), to meet there and get to know each!

    Wishing you all the best!!

    Villie xxx

    1. Hi Villie,

      Thanks so much for your comment!

      Ahah, I don't think I'm very brave at all, just desperate to get commissions I guess:)

      Anyway, I think it would be GREAT if we could organise a sort of meeting for next year!! Maybe we could make an event page for a date and time and meet with other illustrators too!! We can keep in touch on facebook, so I'll write you there!

      All the best to you too!!

      Lau x

  3. Hi Laura
    This was my fifth fair, the first as a student then as a librarian and the idea that the fair is huge, confused and beautiful at the same time is the idea that I feel each year.
    I loved read you words about it, it's interesting to me to read about our (Italians) fair from the point of view of someone who was there from abroad and for the first time.
    And I agree with you: more days is the answer! My fair this year was of 3 days: one to visit exhibitions around the city, one entire day at the fair and the last one both city and fair to buy books. I was happy about this organisation!
    Only one note: I'm sorry but that crisis makes none gets rid of books :(
    Nice to read your post and...
    in bocca al lupo (Good luck)!

  4. This is a great resource...
    With Bookworm as our Book Fair vendor, I know the selection of books will be high quality in every regard. In fact, I feel confident enough in this to allow our middle school students to count any book purchased at our Book Fairs as part of their summer reading requirement