Bologna Book Fair 2018
I wanted to share my insights about the Bologna Book Fair. I’ve attended the fair three years in a row. Every time I learn something new and this year was amazing. I’m a shy person, an introvert but this year I had to be brave. I designed and printed my business cards as an author and illustrator. On the back of the card, I included my WIP and the finished projects with a pitch hoping some editor may be interested.
I roamed the fair for two days, peaking at author/illustrators’ work. I attended the invaluable conferences and workshops that it had to offer. I highly suggest you buy the Directory Catalog which lists the exhibitors in alphabetical order.
In the Illustrators Café, Roger Mello and Chinese illustrators talked about picture books, and the techniques they use. Amazing.
Illustrators Café- Meeting with Helen Oxenbury – She spoke about her book ‘We’re going on a Bear Hunt’ and how she illustrated it and where she got the idea for a bear hunt. She illustrated it with gorgeous full-water paintings.
I met young illustrators, we had lunch together sitting on the cement floor like graduates.
Isabelmg.com Spanish, cargocollective.com/chenyali, www.mrrabbitillustration.com they had their portfolios with them and stayed in line for hours hoping a publisher would take some interest in their work. All three were very talented. I met another illustrator, www.mekeleon.com also Spanish, sweet personality, and lovely illustrations.
I visited the SCBWI stand and chitchatted with the staff.
I made as many contacts as I could this year, you never know. Someone might remember my name.
It took me two months to prepare for the fair.
Firstly, I researched all the publishers I was interested in contacting and their catalogs. I prepared a spreadsheet with all the contacts and the publisher’s names that would be a good fit for my projects.
You can’t directly pitch your story at the stands; the publishers may get annoyed. They are at the fair to sell foreign rights, and you won’t find an editor there. BUT there are exceptions; some accept pitches at a determined time of the day. In my case, I bluntly asked a publisher a question on my WIP, and the discussion went on for a while. He then handed me his business card and quoted how J.K. Rowling waited eight years for her Harry Potter book to be accepted by a publisher. So, you never know.
If you intend to attend the Book Fair, remember to book your accommodations early – like two months beforehand.
I stayed in a B&B, about 15 minutes walk to downtown Bologna. This was my room at Rivabella.
Try to book in downtown Bologna and USE public transportation. I’ve overheard conversations on the bus between publishers that made a deal or preliminary contact just by sitting side by side. The public transports in Bologna are crowded during the fair.
Another way to contact or meet publishers is when you dine in the most popular restaurants, or just when you go to a bar for the happy hour. Italy doesn’t have the happy hour but does have the ‘Apperitivo’ (appetizers) before dinner. In Italy, they dine at 8 pm.
Many publishers sit outside in the cat alleys laughing and joking after a long day at the fair.
Remember when you attended your creative writing classes and they said you had to eavesdrop and listen to kids’ conversations to write realistic dialogue? Well, the same applies if you want to know what publishers are seeking and overhear the various opinions they might have on what is trending, in other words, what they are looking for now. I’m lucky because I know three languages. I eavesdropped on a couple of French publishers, and I must say, they are as human as we are. Everyone has a family; everyone has problems. Publishers shouldn’t scare you; you can approach them and ask questions. I met many that gave me chief editors emails, great, right.
Another way to meet publishers and editors is at the hotel. When everyone is relaxing in the lounge, you may pick up a conversation with someone and ignore the fact that they are publishers. My advice is, be yourself, but have your elevator pitches ready just in case someone asks you ‘What are you working on right now? Is the manuscript finished?”
Restaurants in Bologna that won’t rip you off.
Ca Peletti, good homemade cooking, price per meal with a glass of wine. € 15.00 to 25.00
Address: Via Altabella, 15 C/D, 40125 Bologna BO – Phone: 051 266629
Da Nello, very popular for foreign visitors. Book early. A little more expensive but worth it.
Address. Via Monte Grappa, 2, 40100 Bologna BO – Phone: 051 236331