London Book Fair (part two)

My second day of the London Book Fair was mostly made up of wandering around and talking to various publishers with a seminar, and a meeting with Nosy Crow and other of my coursemates in between, followed by the Phaidon Book Party (which I was very excited about).

The London Book Fair is a great place to gather career advice from people who are actually in the industry; it is not a fair to go to with the notion that you absolutely will get a job in publishing while there (it is definitely not that sort of a fair) but I found that publishers were more than willing to give me advice in the small lulls between their appointments. It is in these lulls that I learnt that it was definitely a good idea for me to hastily have assembled a business card before the fair, they were everywhere! Being given, being taken, being asked for, being offered and I am so glad I didn’t have to awkwardly announce that I didn’t have any when asked.

I was on a mission; my dream, if I were to be asked about my career aspirations (which I was), is to work in design but I did not have this foresight before my first degree so I did not go to university to study design. I catered to my other dream of becoming a published author/poet and studied creative writing and while it is an experience I would not change for the world, part of me wonders whether I should have studied graphic design as my other subject rather than English literature. My mission was to find out how achievable that dream is without being formally educated in design since A Level.

Luckily for me, the overwhelming response I was given (particularly by independents) was that in comparison to a good body of work, a degree really wasn’t that important. Larger publishers, due to the sheer amount of applications they receive, may opt to making a degree part of their criterion but I was assured that my lack of a degree would not prevent me from getting a design job from a smaller press. Once the first job is out of the way, the experience becomes all important.

It was a very heartening experience and those I spoke too were brilliantly enthusiastic about the books they produce; I love the industry even more because of those conversations.

The day’s seminar was titled ‘The Digital Generation: The Future of Children’s Storytime’ with Ed Franklin (of Booki), Geraldine Brennan, Babette Cole, and Nathan Hull (of Penguin). It explored the children’s book in the digital context, particularly in regards to illustrated works.

It is a worry among parents and grandparents that the move between print and digital may lessen the sanctity of the children’s book and the experience of reading with a child, an experience treasured long before the first tablet. The talk explored how this can be combated, it was remarked that ebooks should be just as beautifully produced as print and treated with the same respect; digital is just a varied format and should not detract from the work it presents.

A positive of digital, which has been expressed in various talks, is that digital can attract children who may not otherwise read. For some children, reading is just not exciting but with the addition of interactive content these children may find in them the home they never found in print. However, there is an issue of balance, too many animations, games and the like can be distracting; any additional content, therefore, should not be detrimental to the story. It is, afterall, a book.

I think it was Babette Cole that expressed that reading is an investment whereas apps and games just pass the time. It was an interesting look into the thought behind the illustrated ebook concept though success in the medium depends entirely on how tech-savvy the parents are.

In this talk, I even had my own little star-striking experience; not a few seats away from me was Suzy-Jane Tanner, a figure who coloured the reading of my early years, whose own works are being converted into e- form.

Talk of digital was rife at the fair, it was very hard to find a spot where you couldn’t hear someone talking about digital opportunities even just in passing. It is not surprising with the wealth of new products that are appearing. One of our modules at OICPS was testament to this, every group had a digital option for their projects and some projects, like my own, were almost entirely digital.

The day ended with the Phaidon Book Party, which was lovely. It was nice to see everyone again and it’s amazing how much my life has changed since interning with them before the MA had started.

The whole London Book Fair experience was brilliant, as I said in my last entry, it definitely affirmed my love for the industry and my future within it. I cannot wait until next year, and I cannot wait until I finally have a proper foot in the door of publishing.

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.