Apr 7, 2015

After Bologna Children's Book Fair 2015

As announced previously, I've been to Bologna Children's Book Fair this year. 
It was my second time there and I'm glad to say the whole experience was much better than expected, even better than last year. 
Maybe it helped that the weather was absolutely lovely ;)

This year I spent only two days at the fair but I feel like I was able to make the most out of them. 
It helped the fact the fair wasn't as busy as last year, and because of this everybody was a bit more relaxed and with a bit more time on their hand to spend to review illustrator portfolios. 
Claire and I right before going in. Excited faces!

Also, this year I was able to focus my energies a bit better. Instead of running around like a crazy person, I decided to focus only on the publishers I knew I had a good match with. 
This saved me a lot of time and lot of rejections. 



I think one of the reasons why this year went much more smoothly, it's because I was able to follow some of the tips I wrote down last year (here the blog posts from last year, if you fancy reading them).
So now I feel like I can give even more tips!
Here some useful things I learnt/I did this time around:

-Going with someone makes everything easier! 
I was very lucky to be able to share this year experience with Claire Shorrock
She is one of my studio mates and other than being very lovely, she also has a similar style to mine. Both very useful things when choosing a fair buddy! 
I noticed how much easier and less stressful was to approach the publishers when you're with someone else. 
So I would definitely recommend hitting the fair with a fair buddy, both for moral and physical support (someone that holds your bag while you're in the toilet will make your life much easier). 

Claire putting her poster on the wall

-Bring as much promotional material as you can
On the first day, I failed on this... I almost run out of all my promo material in just a couple of hours. I can't tell how frustrated I was with myself, I should have brought more!! In the end, I was able to manage but for the rest of the day I had to bit quite selective. So be generous and bring as much promotional material as your shoulders can bare! 
My cards on the wall

-Bring your own lunch or buy lunch first thing in the morning
You don't want to waste 45 minutes of your time queuing for a sandwich. Especially at lunch times, snack bars are always incredibly busy so my recommendation is to bring your own food. Another option would be to hit the bars way before 12pm and buy the food you're going to eat later in the day. 


Lunch break!

-Get organised: pockets, rucksack and comfortable shoes are a given
Everybody is different in the way they like to get organised to spend the days at the fair.
I had a small A4 portfolio which was easy to keep in my hands all the time.
Also, I was using a small tote bag where I was keeping my promo material, water and my notebook. This way I didn't have to open my rucksack all the time. 




-Bring any published sample you might have
Showing my portfolio with my best work was great but I think publishers get more excited when they can see an actual published book. 
I brought along four of my published books... Very heavy to carry around all day on my back but I think it was worth it!
Making friends while queueing for a meeting

-Be ready to talk comfortably and confidently about your own work. 
It's always a bit awkward and nerve-wracking when a publisher is browsing your portfolio during a meeting. I figured I would look way more professional and confident if, instead of just standing there without saying a word, I could talk a bit about me and about what they were looking at. 
I would suggest to give a couple of info about where you live, what you've worked on in the past and how you create the work. 
That should give an interesting insight that complements what is in your portfolio. 

Pizza with some lovely Italian illustrator friends

-Always ask for the art director/publisher contact details. 
This is absolutely ESSENTIAL and, in my opinion, even more important than leaving your promo material to the publishers. This way, you will be able to follow up with an email to remember them about your meeting. 





-Find accommodation in the centre of town
Unfortunately the fair is a bit far out the city centre, so if you get accommodation close to it, it might get a bit tricky in case you want to explore the city in the evenings of go out for dinner with other illustrators. 
Usually everybody meet in the centre, so my suggestion is to get accommodation somewhere near there and get the bus to the fair in the morning (bus 35 from the train station goes directly there). 
In particular, I would suggest to get accommodation somewhere close to "via indipendenza", a pretty big shopping street that connects the train station to the main square.


-Submit your work to the illustration exhibition and get in for free!
If you do this, they will send you a free pass to the fair. Highly recommended! 
Keep an eye on the BCBF website or, even better, subscribe to their newsletter. Deadline for this is usually around October. 


Me and Anna Clothier, author of Humphrey Bookworm (coming out later this year)

-Try to meet with people you have already worked with
Before the fair, I contacted some of the people I worked with in previous projects and ask them if they were going to attend the event (as they say... even better than finding new clients, it's to be able to keep the ones you already have). 
I think it makes such a big difference to shake hands and finally meet someone in person, instead of being just a name in an email address. I feel this is an essential step in creating a solid business relationship with someone, even if you've already been working with them for a while. 
Especially, it's good to prove them I'm not a crazy artist, but a reliable person they can keep trusting ;) 



Me and Kristine (publisher at Magination Press) holding Lucy In The City, book coming out later this year


Overall, I feel very satisfy with the whole experience. The only thing I wish I did, it's to bring a dummy book with my own story in it. My friend Claire did and it was great to see how many incredibly useful tips the publishers were giving her about her story. 
This is something I will definitely try to do next year!



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