On April 12th I was incredibly lucky to be able to attend the London Book Fair thanks to the wonderful people at Accent Press. I have dreamed of attending the Fair for a couple years now, ever since I discovered this wonderful event and its importance to the world of publishing.
I’ve been a writer since 2007 and still hope to one day be professionally published and perhaps even have an agent selling rights to my book at the London Book Fair one day, but the reason I was most excited to go is because, for the last few years, I’ve been trying to build the skills and experience necessary to enter the publishing industry and the London Book Fair experience was like being a kid in a candy store.
Let’s start with how I even got my ticket. I signed up to be part of Accent YA’s reviewer squad after YALC 2015. I’d come across their button and a postcard or bookmark and wanted to find out more about them. I was really intrigued by the early previews of their titles and I was keen to see more of the books they chose to expand their list with. So, the lovely Bethan at Accent YA sends out emails on occasion with information about new releases, book covers, Twitter Q&As and the like and in one of these emails, she mentioned a prize draw for a ticket to the London Book Fair for their launch event.
Obviously, I put my name forward for it. My birthday is April 14th so it was like a birthday gift from me to me. When Bethan emailed me about getting my ticket, I actually squealed, not going to lie. Then it was simply a case of booking train tickets and a hotel.
Side note here: as someone who suffered quite severe social anxiety from 2009 to last year, when I came off my anxiety medication, this was like THE TEST to see how I was coping a full year of no medication.
Seven hours, three trains, and a short walk on Monday 11th April and I was booked into my hotel and in bed by 10.30pm, ready for the excitement of the following day. The first thing I did when I got to the venue was head to the Accent Press stand, where I was introduced to Hazel Cushion, the Managing Director, and Bethan James, the Sales, Marketing & Publicity Manager. It was lovely to put a face to the name for Bethan, and the other members of the team were so lovely.
I’ll admit, I spent a lot of my time hanging around near their booth. As an unpublished writer/book blogger, there wasn’t a whole lot for me to do at the Fair except wandering around and stare at all the beautiful things.
I ended up collecting a lot of things. Officially, I was only there for the Tuesday – even though my ticket was for all three days – and I wanted to make the most out of the time that I had. I wandered around the booths, gazing admiringly at the huge booths from companies such as Penguin Random House and Hachette.
I headed up to the designated Children’s HQ and introduced myself to a couple of the publicity people I’ve spoken to through emails for this blog. Again, it was great putting faces to names and I was able to hand out my business card to a few people while I chatted. I felt like a proper professional.
I also took the opportunity to ask about internships and the kind of skills and experience publishers look for in entry level applicants. I was pointed in the direction of Bounce Marketing, who do the publicity for several publishers and were hosting some of them at their booth for the event. One of these publishers was Barrington Stoke, an Edinburgh-based publisher who specialises in fiction that is super readable to make reading more fun for children with dyslexia and other such conditions.
I managed to set up a meeting with the Managing Director, Mairi Kidd for that afternoon and headed towards the Author HQ for the first of two seminars I attended.
I can’t recall the exact name of this talk, but it was about hybrid publishing – where the author had started out self-published and later became traditionally published. Jodi Taylor – now published through Accent Press – was one of the speakers, as well as Hazel. I found it really interesting to listen to the individual experiences of the authors and publishers on the panel.
As a writer who publishes fiction on sites like WattPad as well as self publishing, it’s encouraging to hear stories like these where the author was later picked up traditionally.
For most of the day, as I said, I was wandering around the stalls and picking up catalogues for upcoming releases. I ended up with loads of them and I still haven’t had a chance to look through them all properly.
I managed to get the name of a woman to contact in my city – who I have now contacted and she’s lovely! – regarding literature based events here in Dundee, specifically the Dundee Literary Festival, which I will potentially be a volunteer at this year now, thanks to the lovely woman who was manning the Publishing Scotland booth.
Perhaps my favourite part of my entire London Book Fair experience was finally getting to meet Ben Illis in person. I was lucky enough to get a manuscript critique from Ben after donating towards a GoFundMe/KickStarter campaign that someone had dropped out from. I was excited enough at the prospect of having my book critiqued by someone so admired within the publishing community.
That was at the end of last year, October/November, and we’d Skyped a couple of times between then and the Fair, but getting to talk to him face to face was brilliant. We had a quick chat between his meetings and he introduced me to some wonderful people who I was able to chat to about internships in Edinburgh and get a little more information from.
Then it was back up to the Bounce booth for my meeting with Barrington Stoke. I’d picked up a couple of proof copies earlier and had a quick read through Girl, Detached before my meeting with Ben. It’s from their new Bucket List imprint and I can honestly say it looks set to be a fantastic new line of stories. I still haven’t read Wave just yet, but I’m keen to see what it’s all about.
I spoke with Mairi about potential internships and gave her my card. It was a really insightful talk and I came away from it excited about the potential from it. I emailed Barrington Stoke to follow up on the meeting a few days ago and they’re going to keep in touch about internships, so it’s paid off to be pro-active!
Towards the end of the day, I attended a seminar called How to Get Into Publishing. It was hosted by the Society of Young Publishers and Inspired Selection, a recruitment agency for publishers. I found it really insightful and took a bunch of notes that I’m hoping to put to good use when I finally get an interview for an entry level position.
The panel was like a Q&A style and it was interesting to hear some of the Dos and Don’ts of applying for jobs.
They also gave us this little booklet, which I have read a million times since I got it. It’s got great information on every possible avenue you could take from entry level positions all the way through each branch in Publishing.
I missed the beginning of Accent YA’s launch because of the panel but made it back in time to chat to some of the authors, meet fellow blogger Alix Long who also got a ticket from Accent Press to attend the Fair, and I even managed to get signed copies of five of Accent Press’s books from the authors who were there.
It was wonderful to hear Jeff Gardiner discuss his book, I had a wonderful talk with Alison Knight about everything from books to family, and talking to Sofi Croft and Natalie Flynn was an absolute pleasure, too. Meeting Sofi’s little one was fun too, such a cutie!
Overall, I came away from my first day exhausted but so, so happy.
Before I headed home on the 13th, I had a meeting with a teaching fellow from Stirling University to discuss their Masters in Publishing programmes. It was a great meeting and we discussed everything about the course and my writing and ambitions. It ended with her telling me that, although the course would be a great experience for me, she didn’t think I would be available to take it because she believed I would already have a job in Publishing.
Hearing that just before I left the building for the train station and the seven hour trip back home was just the icing on a very delicious cake that was the London Book Fair 2016.