This And That

The 2015 London Book Fair

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Hi everyone!

As some of you may know, the London Book Fair recently took place at London Olympia. This was the first time that I attended this event and I would like to share my memories with you while they are still fresh.

This was actually quite an experience! I was of course very excited during the weeks preceding the opening day, as anyone who loves books would be, but I have to say that, in the end, this London Book Fair left me a little bit frustrated for some parts…

But let’s start with the highlights of this Book Fair. I had the opportunity to attend very interesting conferences on a wide panel of subjects and they were very stimulating to say the least. Some conferences were clearly job-oriented and, as a publishing graduate hoping to find a job in the industry in a hopefully near future, I was of course highly interested in them. That’s how I ended up attending a conference called Challenging tradition: what skills are trending now?, another one called How to get into Publishing and, lastly, a conference about Building the publishing workforce of the future. And I did learn a lot thanks to the great speakers who took part in these conferences. I had the chance to get advice from John Athanasion, HarperCollin’s Director of People, Sanne Vliegenhart, Digital co-ordinateur at Hot Key Books (and Booktuber and blogger whom I recently discovered and fell in love with. To have a look at her Youtube channel, it’s over THERE, and you can access her just as good blog just HERE) and Neil Morrison, Group Human Resources Director of Penguin Random House UK, to name only a few of them. That should give you a good idea of the big shots that were there for the occasion… So I got a lot of very useful advice and finally understood what was wrong with my applications. What I remember from these lectures? To find your way in publishing, you have to be a self-starter, able to adapt as well as a chameleon and creative person. If I don’t have doubts about my adaptability skills, I think that this blog will show whether I have the other required qualities. To be continued…

Then, there were more general conferences, about the book industry or some genres. These are the conferences that I attended for pleasure, without any strategic goals. My favourite one was definitely How does conversation between children’s authors and publishers go?, which featured the great Melvin Burgess and his publisher, Klaus Flugge, as well as the Mexican author Jean Villoro, whom I didn’t know but who seems to be a legend in the world of children’s literature. Finally, the speakers didn’t talk so much about the relationship between authors and editors for children. They focussed more on their personal itineraries and their links with children’s literature, and this was as interesting, if not more. If I haven’t talked here about Melvin Burgess yet, I think it is time I told you my love for him.

I discovered this writer when I was about 13 or 14. This is when I read Junk – one of my personal classics, which I read and reread tirelessly – for the first time. And two years ago, in the framework of my Master’s degree, which was mainly focussed on children’s literature and publishing, I decided to write the dissertation that I had to write about Melvin Burgess’s novels for teenagers, and especially about realism in these novels. So you can imagine how happy I was to hear this writer about whom I had researched a lot, whose books I had read and analysed line after line dozens of times, talking about his books. Melvin Burgess was funny, fascinating and extremely clever and consistent when talking about his approach to teen fiction. In the end of the conference, I decided to be bold and go to talk to him. As you may guess, I wasn’t the only one who was tempted by a little chat with him, but he really took time to talk to everyone. He was absolutely lovely with me, and saying that I was relieved to see that he was not a kind of pretentions assh*le is the least we can say. When he told me that he wouldn’t be able to read my dissertation because it was in French, I grabbed the opportunity and offered to translate it into English for him. Despite his numerous protests, I tried to convince him that I would be really glad and flattered to be read by him and get his opinion about my work, and he finally gave me his own email address. So my new goal is to translate these 80-page dissertation from French into English in a few weeks, before he totally forgets our meeting…

These were for the great bits. Let’s now tackle the sensitive issues. First, I have to say that I couldn’t help myself from comparing the London Book Fair with the Salon du Livre de Paris (Paris Book Fair), which I attended the last couple of years and which was extremely different. At the Paris Book Fair, publishers have stands in which they display and sell their books to the public. It is therefore quite easy to have a chat with various people working in publishing houses. There are also a huge number of books signings featuring international best-selling authors (every year, you can be sure that Amélie Nothomb will be there) along obscure debut authors published in the biggest confidentiality. This means that whether you work in the book industry or are just passionate about books, you will always do well out of being there. The London Book Fair is a 100% professional event, even if, for an unknown reason, tickets are sold to the general public. I was thus quite disappointed to wander among stands where publishers were busy doing business with foreign publishers and other actors around small tables that were obstructing the access to books (which were not for sale anyway). As a result, I did not get back home with hundreds of new books as expected (which may actually be better for my bank account) and I did not talk with people working on the stands either. On this regard, my experience at the London Book Fair was quite disappointing: you go there to make connections only when you are already in the business. This is what I learnt and will remember for next year.

I’ll let you meditate on these humble considerations and will be back next week for my first review… about a book written by an author who is no longer with us but which remains and will remain topical for a very long time.

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