Friday, April 17, 2015

A Beginner's Guide to Bologna --thoughts from Brooks

So, my colleagues Heather and Gemma have both shared their insights on the Bologna Children's Book Fair (here and here), an annual event famous for its parties, decadent dinners, and international publishing camraderie. Publishing friends have been telling me for years now that I had to check out Bologna. This was the year I finally bit the bullet, bought the airfare, and reserved my room, to find out what all the fuss was about...

Okay, Bologna, in one word: Overwhelming. The day you fly in, the publisher Random House hosts a cocktail party for the visiting publishing people. There are delicious meats and cheeses and lots of wine and prosecco, and so many people you've spoken to on the phone or by email but never before met in person. But you can't enjoy yourself TOO much, because you've got to be up at 6am the next day in time to have a strategy breakfast meeting with your colleagues Gemma and Molly, before you hail a taxi to take you to the fair. It all starts out so quiet:

But don't be fooled! This place gets packed real fast. Thousands of agents, editors, publishers, scouts, publicists, marketing directors, art directors, authors, illustrators, and tourists will arrive this first day to check things out. Here's what it looks like on the floor, where publishers from every corner of the globe have set up booths displaying the books they're most excited about:

Meanwhile, we agents are squirreled away in the aptly named Agents' Centre, where we will spend the next three days in back-to-back meetings (9am-6pm, with occasional bathroom breaks) with co-agents from other countries, scouts, and editors, pitching our agency's frontlist — that is, our clients' most recent sales and books launching this year:

Now while the nonstop pitching is certainly exhausting, I found it fascinating (and incredibly rewarding) to be able to pitch my clients' projects in person to foreign editors, see what they were and were not interested in, and more importantly, why. After all, what works as a trend or a concept in America doesn't necessarily translate or hold the same appeal in other countries!

After the close of business each day, then there are the parties and dinners out all over town. Not exactly a requirement of the job, but you'd be foolish not to take advantage of the amazing Italian cuisine or enjoy a simple walk through this beautiful, historic city.

And then, after a whirlwind of four days, where you've spoken so much to so many people you may have literally lost your voice (sorry, Gemma!), the Bologna Children's Book Fair 2015 is suddenly over and it's time to fly back home...or in my case, to Amsterdam, for the SCBWI Europolitan conference. In retrospect, I do question the wisdom of signing up for a writers' conference immediately following the intensity of an international book fair, but was my first time. And hopefully not my last!

If you'd like to hear more about the Bologna Children's Book Fair, or my experiences there, I'd be happy to chat! Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter: @byobrooks.

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