Friday, March 22, 2013

Bologna Book Fair Meetings--a post by Gemma

In my last post, I talked generally about what goes on at the Bologna Book Fair, and how our preparations were going.  

Well today, I want to go into greater detail about a key part of our fair experience — meetings. A few times this week my clients have asked how we tackle the half-hour slots we have with editors, film agents, and foreign rights people, so I thought I’d share that answer with you all! 

Firstly, it’s worth remembering that half an hour isn’t a long time, so we need to be focused, organised, and have your pitches polished to perfection. Lots of preparation has already gone into this! 

Meetings take place mostly in the Agents Centre, or sometimes at the editor’s stand. After pleasantries — ‘How are you?’ ‘Did you have a good flight?’ etc. — we get straight down to business. There are two key things we want to know:

What sort of projects are you looking for at the moment?

What are you definitely not looking for?

Spin-off questions from these include:  

What is your dream project?  Some editors have a really specific type of book they are dying to take on. But often people are less specific about what they want, saying just good voice, great characters, a future classic, series potential, etc.  

What are you seeing too much of? This helps us gauge what trends are coming to an end and where the market is saturated. 

What have you bought recently? If the editor has recently bought a YA romance based around a team sport, chances are they aren’t going to want to buy another. 

What have you lost out on recently? If an editor bid for a book and didn’t get it, they might be on the lookout for something similar. 

The answers to these questions help us decide what projects on our submission list would be a great fit for that person. So we listen for the first part of the meeting, and then we start pitching our wonderful clients’ books. Sometimes people just like to hear about everything, and sometimes people just want to hear about one project. We keep pitches short and enticing and if a project sparks an editor’s or co-agent’s interest, we make a note, and send them the full manuscript.

It’s easy to get into a rhythm with meetings after you’ve done a few, but of course each one is slightly different. Some editors we’ve seen recently, so it’s more of a general catch-up, and some have books with us already, so we might take the opportunity to talk about those projects, how they’re going, or whether they are looking to commission more books from those authors. The above isn’t set in stone, but it’s nice to have a rough plan.

And now I really need to go and pack! Molly will be posting a roundup of our Bologna experience when we get back.

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