London Book Fair (part one)

I realise that this is incredibly late but I would rather be late than not write it at all. Last month, I went to London Book Fair for the first time (hopefully the first of many times). Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos, I should have but did not have the foresight to know that I would regret that decision in hindsight. Next year, I will be toting my camera with me.

I’d packed my first day with seminars, and a small amount of time to walk around and see if anyone would talk to me (they did!), the first of which was called ”Don’t judge a book by its cover’… But we all do, especially children!’ with Jane Walker.

It did what it said on the tin, detailed the process of creating the best covers and what should be thought about while doing so. It was given from an editorial perspective but still incredibly interesting for budding designers such as myself. The synergy between editorial and design is all important when it comes to the cover, so too with marketing; as Walker said you can sell a poor/mediocre book with a great cover but you can’t sell a brilliant book with a terrible cover.

It’s the most exposed image of every book and ultimately determines whether said book will be picked up, as a reader, I am very judgemental about covers and I would imagine that many others are the same. I came out of the talk wanting to attempt to redesign those covers which displease me and perhaps I will.

The process of publishing an illustrated children’s book was described as ‘a bit like a rat travelling through an anaconda’ and it was possibly my favourite phrase of the day.

My second seminar was a Booktrust panel about genre snobbery called ‘Reading Outside the Box’ chaired by Matt Haig, who was joined by Chris Priestley and Brenda Gardner. I was going to include a recording of the panel here, I wrote in my notes that it will be on youtube but after a quick search it doesn’t appear to be there. Many apologies, readers.

I thought it was particularly interesting that genre snobbery is, perhaps, becoming irrelevant in YA, which was said to have taken over from pulp fiction. I, myself, don’t think of genre when I pick up a YA novel. I just see it as YA. The question was raised, then, as to whether genre is a marketing creation. Authors are branded by their genre but what would happen if genre divisions disappeared? Would prominent genre authors still remain prominent or would they dribble out of the spotlight?

I have an incredible amount of notes from this panel, which just goes to show how engaging it was. I am also pondering writing an essay on the subject, since the taught part of my degree is now over and I have time alongside my major project and SYP design work. (That is, if I don’t get a job very soon.) More on that later.

After the panel, I wandered around talking to various children’s publishers, particularly independents who were incredibly generous with their advice, and collecting catalogues before the Story Adventure talk from HotKey Books.

Story Adventure is a wonderfully collaborative platform for children in which they get to have their say in what happens in Fleur Hitchcock’s next book; I see a bright future for the project (I wish it was around when I was small!). It’s a great PR exercise and really emphasises the perks of reading, writing and overall creativeness among children.

The day ended with a talk on ‘New Adults & Steamies, reinventing teen fiction’ and rather than type about it here, I will direct you to Charlie’s brilliant blog entry. I highly suggest you follow her blog and her twitter (she’s queen of all things YA and lovely too).

As first book fair experiences go, this was a very good one. I may have started off slightly overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stands I was surrounded with but that was soon replaced by a very bookish awe and excitement. If I didn’t know already, London Book Fair would definitely have confirmed that this was the perfect industry for me.

Stay tuned for part two within the next few days.