I must say, that it was my first time attending a book fair of any sort in the city.
Not counting the numerous Scholastic Book Fairs that I always attended in elementary school and then later begged my mother to buy me the next novel in the Magic Tree House Series. Between you and me, I only got up to book #3 in that series, Mummies in the Morning.
But it's important for me to mention that attending a Book Fair won't guarantee that you will come out with a literary agent or a publishing deal when you walk through the door. To be frank, Book Fairs are not really intended for authors, but they are worth attending because they can giving you a glimpse into what the publishing business is really like.
So really, the best thing you can get out of attending one of these Book Fairs is for you to get a running start on your writing career.
And I was shocked.
Pleasantly, shocked to be exact.
But it got me thinking that if I had walked into the London Book Fair, or any Book Fair for that matter (i.e. Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, BookExpo America and Frankfurt Book Fair just to name a few) and I was my fifteen-year-old self struggling to be recognized as an author, I would have no idea how to function at these events.
And quite possibly be scared out of my mind.
Yes! You can indeed meet a real life literary agent at a Book Fair.
Most of the time at these functions, unpublished authors have the opportunity to meet a network with a vast array of literary agents. You can ask questions to them about the publishing industry, what genre of novels they represent, and what the market looks like it's heading in regards to what people are currently reading.
And the best part: You will have the opportunity to pitch your novel idea to them face-to-face.
Again, you might not leave a Book Fair with a contract between you and a lit agent, but you'll at least get feedback on your ideas and submission material.
However, it is critical that you schedule a meeting with them months before the Book Fair. And by months, I mean at least six to be exact.
I learned that at The London Book Fair people were scheduling meetings with literary agents as early as November to secure a one-on-one meet and greet in April. Furthermore, a literary agent's schedule fills up quickly so the longest you'll be able to meet with a literary agent would at max be up to 10 minutes.
Usually an agent's contact information will be posted on the Book Fair's website, but if it isn't and you find a literary agent who will be attending a particular fair, you may have to do some research and contact the literary agent to ask if they will meet with you.
Who knows, maybe you'll find the literary agent equivalent of Ari Gold to help give you a boost.
Book Fairs differ in size.
You might attend a Book Fair that takes places in one giant room . . . or several buildings like The Frankfurt Book Fair.
Either way, you will be swallowed in by the mass wave of all things literary.
Think of it as being back on your first day of attending high school.
Are you terrified yet?
Well, you should be, because that's a typical normal reaction.
Because most likely, the very first thing you're going to see when you walk through the doors will be something along the lines of this:
You'll probably be intimidated at first by all the people and by all of the publishing stands, but just remember that you're here on a mission. You're here to explore what is in store for you if you decide to commit to the writing world.
So just walk around, get yourself lost amongst the midst of the most popular publishing houses and just for a moment image what kind of future will be in store for you and your writing.
So embrace the intimidation, but don't let that overpower you from to your main goal.
It is a terrifying thought to think that "these people" are responsible for the destiny of your future novels. Will they bring you success? Will they bring you failure? These thoughts will drive anyone up the wall.
But enjoy the fact that you're in the presence of these powerful publishing companies.
That's honestly what's more important.
And you'll definitely have ALL THE FEELS:
Yup. All these guys will be at any Book Fair:
Keep in mind that the publishing houses and the literary agents will not be located in the same area.
At The London Book Fair, each floor was divided separately.
Usually it's the Ground Floor where all of the Publishing Houses are spread out.
In addition, for those who are just new to the publishing world and have submitted their manuscript (via literary agent) to the Big Four publishing houses and haven't heard a peep back from them, don't start panicking . . . yet.
The answer to why Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins, Penguin Random House and etc. haven't gotten back to you yet on your acceptance/rejection letter of your manuscript, is because the whole publishing selection process takes a really, really, really, really long time.
You think that's bad, then get this:
It turns out that when you've submitted your manuscript to the publishing houses it goes through a process in which the different imprints of that publishing house takes a look at the manuscript. But each imprint of the publishing house can only take a look at the manuscript one at a time.
For example, let's say you've submitted your manuscript to Hachette Livre – one of the Big Four publishing houses in New York. Your manuscript will then be looked at one at a time by the imprints of Hachette Livre (i.e. Grand Central Publishing, Little Brown, Poppy and etc.). And obviously because these imprints get manuscripts day-in and day-out it takes a while for them to get across to your manuscript before they decide to either accept it or reject it. And if they reject it, the manuscript gets passed along down the list to the next imprint of Hachette Livre.*
* Note: If anyone from Hachette Livre or someone from an imprint of Hachette Livre is reading this blog right now, it would be really awesome if you accepted my novel to your publishing house. Your YA novels from Little Brown and Poppy are amazing!**
** Or, you know, if any publishing house or an imprint of one of the big publishing houses is reading this, please accept my novel. That would make my life, so much better.
So the best thing to do as you wait for your letter is to sit back, read, or start up writing your second novel.
You never know when you'll might hear back and with what news.
You'll probably have to pre-book on the Book Fair's website to attend an Author's Showcase, or it might come along with the ticket you've purchased.
Either way, attending an Author's Showcase will give writers the opportunity to ask the authors questions of how they got started in the publishing business. Their answers might even inspire them as well.
An Author's Showcase will include book singing and meeting with the international publishing contacts for each attending author at the showcase. Authors also vary between writers, screenwriters or both.
You'll be able to learn about their writing techniques and listen to them list off the best tips to break into the publishing industry.
Worth attending, especially if you admire that author's writing.
Well, you are at a Book Fair so what the heck did you expect?
Usually you'll have the opportunity to buy a bunch of books at these, well, Book Fairs.
These booksellers from across the globe come to Book Fairs to sell novels of every form of genre to get both writers and readers hyped on what's in store for them.
Just think of the end game, when one day after nailing down an agent and getting your manuscript accepted by a publishing house, one day you might hold a copy of your own literary work in your hand. And from there, booksellers will take your novel in and start selling them to other aspiring writers like yourself.
Every novel has had its own journey from print to page, and witnessing these booksellers at a Book Fair might be the next push you were looking for to chase after your dreams.
Admittedly, I was terrified out of mind when I arrived. There was just so many things happening and so many important publishing companies that I dreamed would take one of my novels in one day.
It was frightening, but after a few minutes of walking around and being acquainted with my surroundings, there was something that was keeping me from turning back.
As I glanced at the stands to the publishing houses of Bloomsbury and Harper Collins, I suddenly had a strong confirmation about something that I wasn't sure about until I had gotten a better grip of my surroundings:
I belonged here!
These were my people!
This was what I have to look forward to in my career as writer!
Also, it was really cool.
So wherever you are in the world reading this, and you love to write but are struggling to jump through all the hoops of getting published, just remember what Kevin G said to Cady near the end of Mean Girls:
What he said.
So just keep doing what you love and it will pay off.