Event Report: London Book Fair 2016 by Janey Robinson

Janey Robinson reports from The London Book Fair 2016

What business does a writer have at the London Book Fair? None. A better question might be how relevant are writers at the London Book Fair? Very. This goes for illustrators too. 
As one of the authors of the day Tracy Chevalier put it, “it’s nice to have that layer of fairy dust, that is the novelists, sprinkled all over the book fair.” She's talking about the big names, but I think this encompasses all creatives. We're not expected to do anything, other than keep creating. 
The Children's Hub at The London Book Fair
Rewinding a couple of weeks as my first visit to the London Book Fair drew nearer, I scoured the list of talks on the website that I, an unpublished, unagented writer, thought I would gain the most from. After downloading the mobile app for easy access to my schedule, I was mostly camped out in the children's publishing area. It had three event spaces, eighty publisher stands and a couple of food stalls that satisfied my daily tea and cake habit. I ended up attending ten talks over the three days, which were either panels or author interviews. 

My top three were: 
 The Make them Laugh panel with Alex Milway, Gary Northfield, Kate Davies and the brilliant Philip Ardagh discussing children’s appetite to read books that make them laugh and the learning opportunity this presents, particularly in non-fiction. 
Gary Northfield, comic writer and illustrator
 An author interview with Judith Kerr talking about the inspiration behind her first book When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit in the aftermath of a childhood defined as a Jewish refugee, and her latest book Mister Cleghorn’s Seal inspired by her father. 
 The Write Stuff panel, a dragon’s den style competition where we heard six authors, shortlisted from over one hundred submissions, pitch their books to three agents. 
 Shortlisted SCBWI member Karen Taylor pitched her YA novel at The Write Stuff and said of the experience, "It's a good opportunity if you get to the final six, a great achievement even if you don't win. Anything that gets you out there is worth it. Publishing is so much about promotion and PR these days, so any opportunity you get to practice these marketing skills is invaluable." 
Karen Taylor pitching her YA novel to agents
 Also worth a mention, as SCBWI member Kate Peridot noted, was The Power of Pictures panel led by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE). The panel discussed the interplay between words and pictures being more important than ever and the value of teachers working directly with professional writers becoming more proven and known. 

 There was so much going on at the book fair, a lot behind closed doors and on other levels that required different conference tickets or that you be an agent or publisher, it was the physical embodiment of the business of publishing. Tracy Chevalier talked about hearing the “sound of people buying and selling books,” which is apt as the suited and booted publishing industry were there to meet, network and conclude deals. 
BAMB at The London Book Fair

So, should you go next year? As Kate Peridot shows, go if you have pre-booked meetings and are better than me at coming away with a great selection of publisher catalogues filled with new releases and a snapshot of the current market, and as Karen Taylor proves, go if you make it to the shortlist to take part in "The Write Stuff". If you’re one of the lucky few, there could be some business to attend to! 

By attending I gained a feeling of being more connected to the global publishing industry just by witnessing it bustling around me. I learned something new at the majority of the talks I went to and I feel like I would now be better equipped to attend again, particularly in light of Kate and Karen’s experiences, planning is key. 

Next years fair dates have already been announced, it will be held at the Olympia exhibition centre on 14-16 March 2017. 

In the meantime you can find out more about what went on at the 2016 London Book Fair at the following links, particularly the award winners to look out for.

London Book Fair Blog 

 London Book Fair 2016 award winners list 

 London Book Fair 2016 video playlist

Janey Robinson spent fifteen years writing poetry and short stories before becoming an aunt, four times, reawakening her love for the books of her childhood. She is currently working on fiction and nonfiction picture book texts with human nature at their heart. She joined SCBWI in 2015 and volunteers to help organise their London events. Janey lives with her husband Tom in Notting Hill and is pregnant with their first child.



  1. Great write up, thanks Janey! You've definitely made it feel more accessible and friendly to a novice like me!

  2. Like Zoe says, you've made it accessible and opened my eyes to the event. I've always felt it was more for published and agent ed authors. Thank you.

  3. Like Zoe says, you've made it accessible and opened my eyes to the event. I've always felt it was more for published and agent ed authors. Thank you.

  4. The personal statement for medical school gives the admissions committee the inside scoop of who you are and if you have the heart to be a doctor. sop essays


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