Overwhelming is the first word that springs to mind when thinking back on the London Book Fair! LBF has been running for 46 years and is one of the world’s biggest, with over 130 countries represented this year. It is a place where many deals are made, rights bought and sold, and seeds of collaboration are often sown.
As a student, it’s more a place of wandering around, trying to find your bearings and look like you belong as attempt to wrangle free books from various sources. (I was completely unsuccessful but most of my classmates managed a decent haul. What am I doing wrong??) It was pitched to us as a place to get down to some serious networking and present business cards at every opportunity. However, I must say I did not find this to be quite true. Publishers there are busy. They are there to do business. Most have back-to-back meetings. There isn’t really much opportunity to pitch yourself and get in line for a job. ‘Check our website for vacancies’ was the standard response. Granted, perhaps I was going about this networking the wrong way, and I don’t have a business card because, well, I don’t see the need for one at this point. But I know I’m not the only one that felt this way.
However, it is not my intention here to be negative. People are friendly and chatty, the seminars are fascinating and informative – get there at least 20 minutes beforehand to get a seat – and it is so much fun getting lost amongst the stalls, seeing how creative people can be with displays, learning about publishers from all over the world (Dubai Police Academy, anyone?) It is well worth going to, even as a timid student.
Some highlights in terms of seminars:
- Megaphone: Introducing New Voices of Colour in Children’s and Teen Literature
Leila Rasheed set up Megaphone to support BAME YA writers. Five of the writers read excerpts from their novels. Even as someone who doesn’t read much YA, all five of these stories sound amazing and I wanted to hear more.
- Unearth Your Inner Editor
Cornerstones are a literary consultancy, originally based in the UK and now launched in the US too, making them the first transatlantic literary consultancy. The founder, Helen Bryant, delivered a riveting discussion on editing manuscripts, supplemented with real-life example of how she had changed some work. ‘Show, don’t tell’ is an important maxim. Editors must immerse themselves in the writer’s world. If you make cuts, then return later to the manuscript and nothing is missing, they were good cuts. But as an editor, it is not enough to simply impost the cuts. The writer must own them too or the results are ‘cosmetic’.
- Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ in Conversation with Claire Armitstead
Adébáyọ̀ is a Nigerian author whose début novel, Stay With Me, has just been published by Canongate. It sounds brilliant, if harrowing, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. She came across as a fun, intelligent, talented lady who I’m certain has a long, illustrious career ahead of her.