Bologna Book Fair 2015

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!

Getting ready for Frankfurt Bookfair!

Hello again! This year, I've decided to take part on the Frankfurt Buchmesse, which, at least so I've heard, is the biggest book fair in Europe. I've been trying to prepare as best as I could. Mostly, I have used my experience from the previous Bologna bookfair visits. Here is my blog on the Bologna preparations, in case you'd like to take a closer look at it:]

I figured it would be best to bring some brochures with my illustrations and, of cours, contact details, so the publishers could reach me if they like my work. Also, I reprinted some of the postcards I had in Bologna and added new ones as well. There is my email address, cell number and website link on the back of the card. I really hope I'll be able to reach as many publishers as I can. Keeping my fingers crossed! Will keep you posted on how it goes!

PS1: I'm taking my sister with me to help! Ha-ha!
PS2: How do you like the cards? I'm really pleased with the printer job!

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!

Before Bologna Take Off / Tips on How to Present Yourself at the Bookfair

Before I leave for the Bologna Children's Bookfair I wanted to show some of the promotional materials I made to take along. As I have visited the Fair last year, I tried to take into consideration what the publishers appreciated and what not. Not every one of them has the time to sit down for a portfolio interview so is't always good to have something with you to leave around for the art directors - they can get back to you after they return to their offices. 

That's why I decided to print out these booklets. I printed out 60 pieces to leave to the publishers either after
the interview or only to take home to the art-director. Last year I had a package - a few samples of my work in a white envelope with a couple of stickers on it, and I think the envelope is not as good idea as it seems (not much to catch one's eye and trouble with opening and taking out all of the goodies). I believe this is a better option :-)

Of course, I made a couple of postcard designs. I printed 60 of each and plan to give these out and leave some at the illustrator's wall on Monday morning, together with a poster of my work. Which I haven't printed yet, aaaaah!

And at last, but not least, I made a portfolio. Actually two of them, as I didn't want to mix up the two illustration styles that I do. These are just plain A4 formats bound in a wonderful book-workshop here in Bratislava. Nice ladies, they always do such a wonderful job! 


Hope this helps! Good luck everyone and maybe see you in Bologna!