Thursday, 2 April 2015

Tips for illustrators and writers thinking of going to London Book Fair 14-16 April 2015

Say hello if you see this panda at London Book Fair 2015!

I've been to London Book Fair a few times now and have sometimes found it overwhelming. Occasionally I've questioned whether it is worth the trouble. To be honest LBF is not really designed for illustrators or writers like me, it's mainly for those involved in the business of publishing and the real action (I'm told) happens in the International Rights Centre upstairs.

Having said that, if you are a writer or illustrator and happen to be in London on 14-16 April, I think it's worth a visit:

  • Most of the stands of the larger publishers are manned by sales people and usually you can only talk to someone if you have an appointment. However a lot of smaller publishers have stands and many times you might find yourself talking to someone involved in commissioning illustrators or buying stories.
  • LBF is an opportunity to see ranges of books by particular publishers and, sometimes, to collect their catalogues. This is helpful when deciding who you should submit your portfolio or story to later. Does your work fit in their niche? Are they already publishing something that is too similar?
  • Each year there is a market focus on a particular country, for 2015 it is Mexico. Publishers from many other countries have stands at LBF. It is a wonderful opportunity to see books from around the world.
  • There are lots of conferences, events and seminars spread over the three days covering a wide range of publishing related topics. You're sure to find something of interest.

Some tips for pre-published writers and illustrators attending London Book Fair 2015 for the first time

  • Look through the conferencesevents and seminars on the website and have a think about which ones you would like to attend. Information is available on the day but it takes a while to go through it and they start early - you don't want to miss out!
  • Print out level one and two floorplans, mark the stands you would like to visit and the locations of seminars or events you'd like to go to. If, like me, you are easily lost, this will save you a few tears of frustration.
  • The LBF website has a list of exhibitors with a set of useful filters to refine your search. Clicking on company names will take you to general information and website addresses.  Use the stand number to find them on the floorplan.

Some suggestions for what to take along

  • Business cards or postcards that give more than just contact information. Someone on an LBF exhibition stand once told me they collect so many cards during the exhibition that afterwards they can't remember why they were interested in that person in the first place and might not contact them. Including one of your illustrations or a blurb about your book on your card is a useful reminder.
  • If you are an illustrator you could take a portfolio either on a device or printed out. I recommend that you don't load yourself up too much because you'll be carrying it around all day. I prefer to take print outs because they are easy and quick to access - just pull them out of your bag!
  • Some food and water - there are lots of caf├ęs but they get busy and are sometimes expensive.
  • A sturdy bag - there are printed guides, newsletters, publishers catalogues and much more to collect. It adds up to quite a lot over the course of a day.

What to do when you are there

  • Don't make your expectations too high for what you'll achieve on the day. Some lucky people have productive meetings at LBF but, from what I understand, this is rare. However it is an opportunity to find out about publishers and to pinpoint people to contact when it's all over. So make sure to collect business cards, catalogues and contact information.
  • Take a notebook to jot down information from conversations with publishers. If you talk to a few it can become difficult to remember exactly who said what. (Another tip is not to lose your notebook as I did last year.)
  • If you are interested in a publisher but their stand is very busy, browse through their books and sooner or later it's likely that someone will speak to you. Be interested in what they are publishing rather than going for the hard sell.
  • Pace yourself, it can be exhausting.
  • Seminars are free and unticketed so arrive early at your favourites to make sure you get in.
  • Keep up with what's going on at LBF or connect with others via social media. A link to an LBF app and to Twitter and so on (scroll down for this) are on the website.

If you have any other tips for London Book Fair please add them to the comments below. And if you happen to spot me do say hello!


  1. Thank you for this! I've been appalled at how much time I've already used up trying to figure out the "best" way to attend - as in, what to expect, what to focus on when I get there, etc. So this is normally helpful. Especially the confirmation that the seminars/events are unticketed - you've saved me at least twenty minutes website trawling trying to find confirmation of that little fact!!

    1. Thanks Larisa. There are some good seminars this year, I'm having trouble deciding which ones I want to try to get to!
      By the way I've just added a link to the list of exhibitors, you can use it to research publishers in advance and to work out where their stand is.

  2. This is extremely useful Amanda, thanks!