It has almost become a tradition - and I have realized I actually quite enjoy this - that every time I come back from a book fair or an event I attend, I write a blog about it. It's always nice to sum things up, to know that it might help someone in the future, and to come back to these lines later and read them over. So here is a post about my trip to Bologna Children's Book Fair 2015.
Attending Bologna Fair is now one of the highlights of my year (at least in the working life, hehe). I can't imagine not going there. This year, it was my third time at the book fair. I can now compare it with other book fairs, such as Frankfurt, Montreuil, Prague or Bratislava. Let's say that Bologna is the best place an illustrator can go, if they'd like to get inspired, get in touch with people from the market, present their work and get to know other illustrators. It's not as huge as Frankfurt - but I found Frankfurt a bit off topic when it comes to dealing with creatives, and not too small, like Montreuil.
What are the reasons to attend Bologna Book Fair if you are still in doubt?
Firstly, it's the best place to go opportunity-wise (for illustrators, of course)
If you are just starting out, or if you are looking for ways to get your work abroad, this might be the right place to begin with. Most of the people from the children's publishing market are here, and most importantly - a lot of the publisher bring their art directors or editors along to (among other things) interview the illustrators. There is always someone to talk with you about your work.
Bologna is a good place to meet fellow illustrators
An illustrator's job may sometimes get lonely. Let's face it, sitting at your desk all day is not the funniest thing to do all year round. I share a studio with other creative people now (illustrators, graphic designers), but I also like to meet new people and keep in touch with other illustrators, that I don't meet daily. Spread your net wide and speak to them! Let people know you're going - share it in the social media world. If you don't find out who from the illustration world is going beforehand, no reason to worry, you'll probably meet new faces queuing for the meetings.
Keep your eyes open for inspiration, Bologna is a great for this!
There is so many beautiful books! Plenty of wonderful illustration work! Get inspired, keep your eyes open, visit the illustrator's exhibition in the entrance hall. Pay attention to what is going on outside the Fair (there are lots of things going on in the evening in the city - exhibition openings etc.)
I would also like to share some advice. After three years of attending, I have a better insight of things I did wrong and things I would like to do better (or same! haha) nex time:
Get confident about yourself and about the work that you do!
Trust me, I know how hard it is to get courage and speak to people. I used to give my little sister my pocket money to call other people on the phone back in the old days. That's not the "me"you want to bring to a book fair. It's not easy, but once you start asking around, speaking to people, and you'll see them respond positively to your work, it will get better.
Don't get upset if the publisher won't speak with you. Ask for the art director's business card or contact details. This might be even more important than speaking to the person. Always ask for the email address. This way, you can follow up after the book fair with a link to your website or samples of your work.
Get to know the publisher. Take a look at their book showcase.
Before approaching someone at the stand, take a look at the books displayed. Does your style fit? This year, I saved myself a lot of time actually "not"speaking to publishers who rejected me before, or whose stand looked nothing like my portfolio.
Meet new folks and old friends!
Every year, I arrange a meeting my agent, Ines, who is the nicest lady in the world. We meet in the entrance hall and speak about work and life. I also like to go to dinner with other illustrators or publishers I already worked with. It's never as serious as speaking at the book fair and it can actually be very useful and refreshing! (and I also like to shake hands with publishers I worked with at the fair - never miss a familiar face! :-)
Visit the city of Bologna!
During my previous visits, I always tried to book a place to stay as close to the Fair as possible. This year, my friend Daniela and I booked an apartment via Airbnb (oh, how I love this service!) directly in the center of Bologna. Could not make a better decision! Having dinner in the city (the food at the Fair is not that good, really, you have something to look forward to once you get into the town) seems to be the best possible reward after a hard day at the Fair.
Bring someone with you, if you can. Have a backpack and comfy shoes. Bring plenty of promotional materials. Don't wear yourself out.
At last (but not least), all of the above is the best you can do. But I blogged about these earlier here and here and here. I also find Laura Wood's blogs a great source of inspiration and a soooo useful! You can read her last Bologna post here.
So! Not sure if anyone is still here, hahaha :-) Still, I hope someone finds this blog useful and I really do hope this might help other illustrators have a successful Fair and enjoy their visit in Bologna! See you next year!