How to Get the Most Out of the London Book Fair
by Julie Gourinchas, Cornerstones UK Managing Editor
9am, Olympia, London. The front doors to the London Book Fair (LBF) swing open and there you are: amid a crush of people, eyes wide, taking it all in. It’s your first time; your heart hammers in your chest. Before you, books and stands and people stretch far as the eye can see; the recognisable names of Penguin Random House, Hachette, Bloomsbury, and more glister above; and there’s one question swirling through your mind: where do I start?
Don’t worry: the bewilderment for first-time attendees is normal.
LBF can be an exhausting, immersive, and exhilarating experience by turns, but above all it is always a lot to deal with. Do yourself a favour and, if nothing else, keep one mantra in mind as you prepare for the fair: comfort and efficiency are key.
What to wear and bring
- Comfortable shoes. 6 hours into the fair, with very little space to seat yourself, your legs will be begging you for respite. Some tidy, clean, polished flats will do the job just fine.
- One large, lightweight bag or a backpack. You’ll want something that can carry your coat or jumper (London in March is quite dreary and wet, but indoors of the fair can be stiflingly hot), along with any documents you pick up along the way.
- Business cards or small pamphlets containing your contact information, your manuscript’s title, and your social media handles. Keep the cards unobtrusive, clean, and easy to read; agents will appreciate simplicity and straightforwardness.
What not to bring
- Your manuscript. It’s tempting to want to hand out your opening pages to any agent whose path you might cross, but agents (more on them later) will be busy; their daily schedules are packed with back-to-back meetings. Simply put, they will not have time to read your opening pages.
- If you do make contact with an agent, introduce yourself politely, give a brief overview of your manuscript (your “elevator pitch”), and, if they indicate interest, provide the agent with your business card and contact them after the fair. Be sure to reference your meeting in your cover letter.
Making contact at LBF (agents, etc)
- Many unagented authors labour under the impression that LBF is an excellent way to meet agents; that they will be milling about the fair’s floor searching for the next great novel. Unfortunately, agents are sequestered on their own separate floor— their primary goal at the London Book Fair is to secure deals for their current authors. This floor is inaccessible to fair attendees unless they specifically have a meeting booked.
- However, there are numerous events which agents attend, including many talks in Author HQ. Be sure to attend these to gain insight into the publishing industry and to (if the agent volunteers it and has the time) introduce yourself there.
- Cornerstones will also be co-hosting a stand with the Professional Writing Academy and invites all authors to drop by for a quick chat. We’re attending the fair as the writer’s friend, here to provide any insight, advice, or help as you navigate LBF!
This year at LBF 2020 Helen Corner-Bryant, our director, will be speaking on the Playing with Prose: Plot, Character, Setting panel at Author HQ on Tuesday afternoon at 2.30pm. Learn how to structure a novel through three keys stages of the writing process – it won’t be one to miss!
For a more in-depth look at how to self-edit, our online course is accepting applications! Sign up to equip yourself with vital editing tools, polish your submissions package, and gain exclusive access to a list of trusted agents.
The London Book Fair is a behemoth, and it can feel (and be) extremely overwhelming. But remember: this industry runs on you. Without authors, we have no stories. Without stories, we have no books. And books, after all, are what it’s all about.
You belong here! Make the fair your own.