Bologna Children's Book Fair

The entrance hall to the Bologna Book Fair.

Hello everyone! I finally have a bit of a time to sit down and write a few lines about the Bologna Book Fair. This year was my second time at the Book Fair and I was able to spent two great days at the Fiera. I think I magnaged to prepare myself better than the last time I went and I really hope this post is going to help other illustrators, just like I’d found the posts of Miriam Bos or Genie Espinosa helpful before I'd set off.

Illustrator's Exhibition  - great selection of work! I was in awe!

Firstly, Bologna Book Fair is a huge event. You’ll see for yourself once you arrive at the location – there is the entrance hall with the Illustrator’s Exhibition and the Guest of Honour presentation, 4 pavilions full of publisher’s stands and also a few talk corners (like Illustrator’s Café, Author’s Café etc). It’s better to purchase the ticket online before you go (you can print it out on your printer at home), this way you can easily avoid the queue at the entrance to the Fair. If you can, try to arrive early on the first day – you’ll be able to get a better spot at the illustrator’s wall to post your posters, postcards or business cards. I had four A3 posters and four little boxes to carry postcards. I got at the Fair 10 mins before opening and it seemed to be enough for me to put all of these in place without any rush. My tip is to use both-sided tape to stick your promotional materials to the wall – this way, you can stick the tape on the posters and cards before you go and don’t have to carry around tapes and scissors (trust me, there will be lots of things to carry around).

My poster at the Illustrator's wall (it wasn't this empty at the end of the day).

Once I was done at the Illustrator’s wall, I moved on to the publisher’s stands (don’t forget to pick up a map at the entrance). Even though I was trying to arrange meetings with art directors before my arrival, I only got a handful of replies – although positive ones – saying the art director wouldn’t be attending the fair, but to keep sending updates. That meant I had to rely on arranging the meetings on spot. I was really surprised by how many publishers were willing to set up meetings with young illustrators. As I began asking around right after I came on Monday morning, most of the publishers still had some free time to fit me in and I was able to get a fair amount of portfolio reviews. I can’t say how much I appreciate a feedback – and not only a good one – there is a bunch of professionals who can give you a good criticism if you’re willing to listen. Needless to say, you probably won’t be able to get this many professional opinions on your work during the entire year. Therefore, it’s really a great advantage to arrive prepared and ready. Here is my most recent post on my own preparations: I carried a backpack and packed:

  • 2 portfolios, size A4 (I give all my respect to the people who carry around these huge cases with their work, but from my experience – it’s good enough to have a folio no larger than A3)
  • 1 published book for publishers who would be interested in seeing any published piece (but I suppose it’s fine to bring a mock-up, too)
  •  business cards
  •    60 A5 booklets with my work and contact details to give out to the publishers – again I would recommend having something no larger than A4, as the art-directors will have to file it somewhere after you give it to them
  •   Post cards (but most of them ended up at the illustrator’s wall)

I also had a notebook to jot down all the useful feedback. I took pictures with my cell, not only of things that I liked, but also from the names of publisher’s stands that I wanted to check out later on the web in case I wasn’t given any contact. Also, I found it helpful to have a bottle of water on me and a quick bite to eat.

Although I was able to attend quite a lot of portfolio reviews, there were publishers who didn’t take in illustrators at all. In this case, I usually asked if I could get the art-director’s business card or their contact details. I also left a sample of my work (the booklet) that could be passed on to the art person. I was able to collect a number of useful contacts this way.

Th Illustrator's Exhibiton

At last, but not least, don’t forget to enjoy the fair! It’s a huge inspiration, there is a great amount of beautiful books and lots of nice people to meet (publishers, authors, fellow illustrators). Wear comfy shoes, buy a lot of gelato and nice books and enjoy yourself! Hope to meet you there next year!