Our Industry Knowhow series from Janne Moller, Rights Manager at Black & White Publishing, continues with her experience of book fairs and her advice for authors and illustrators. This month, it’s Bologna Book Fair which takes place at the end of March.

I’ve been going to book fairs for years and I will gladly say, Bologna is my favourite fair for lots of reasons. It’s a beautiful Italian city with delicious food, it feels like a city but is small enough to easily find your way around, particularly in the old town. I love the relaxed environment and it’s also a great chance to see more of Italy as there are many nearby interesting destinations. The fair has a great feel to it and it has the famous illustrators’ wall. It takes place in late March or early April, depending on the calendar and I start booking in appointments in late January or early February. As with all the fairs I’ve discussed, planning a good three months ahead is a good idea:

1. Getting to the fair
Bologna Book Fair is out of the city centre. Planning your travel may seem obvious, but it is something to remember especially when visiting for the first time. There is a public bus service that can take you to the venue, the No.28 goes from the inner city. Taxis in Bologna are a bit random. You have to take them from a taxi stand so you need to find this. They are not always reliable – have a back-up plan!

2. Illustrators, this is one fair for you
Bologna is the children’s book fair to go to. Some publishers go to both London and Bologna, but if you work in children’s and YA publishing, Bologna is the fair you don’t miss. It is a trade fair, but Bologna is more relaxed and this means there is more of a chance to meet and find publishers so you can email in advance and see about sharing your portfolios. Look at the website and plan which publishers you want to see. You can also apply to be part of the Illustrators Exhibition – visit the Bologna Book Fair website to see how to take part.

3. This one is more relaxing
If you’re an author, rather than an illustrator, Bologna is the most relaxed of the bigger book fairs, at least that is how I feel about it. There are more spaces to relax and talk away from the fair, including courtyards between the halls. For me, there is a different feel to the event, less frantic than at London and Frankfurt. This in itself works in favour of illustrators, as publishers and agents are more open to talking with you and discussing your work. It is a trade fair, but it is a fair where you can find people may be more approachable if you want to have a chat.

4. Book tickets in advance
Bologna has early bird ticket sales. Take them up on this offer, and buy a visitor ticket for either 1 day, 2 days or the full fair. Buying your ticket at the venue is possible but this can mean long queues and higher ticket prices. It is much easier to do this from home, as you can then have your ticket printed off and ready to go. Save yourself the trouble and the money.

5. Learn from other’s experiences
Look online or on Twitter and find illustrators or authors who have been to Bologna. See what they shared, and maybe reach out to anyone you know who has been, particularly if they are an illustrator. Learn how best to go to Bologna as an illustrator, learn from their experience, what you can do, what you should do and what they would advise against too! You’re after that insider information.

6. Size is a factor
Thinking about the three main book fairs, Bologna is smaller than Frankfurt and a bit bigger than London. The event spreads through several halls. As with London and Frankfurt, be sure to have a look at the programme and get a sense of the set-up and maybe the specific publishers or events you’d like to see. I’d recommend comfortable walking shoes as it’s very likely you’ll be on your feet most of the day. Bring snacks and water – I carry these with me. There are cafes and eateries at the fair, but they have long queues at lunchtime. It’s all down to whether you have the time.

7. Italian weather
Bologna Book Fair is in late March into early April, so its early spring Italian weather. For those coming from the UK, this is generally 15-20 degrees and a good bump up from the weather back home. I’ve experienced the odd bad weather too, when it’s been a lot colder than I thought. I’d really recommend checking the weather ahead of going!

8. Bologna and travel links
Bologna is a small town, but it has excellent transport links to the rest of the country. I would very much recommend tagging on a weekend or a couple of days and making the most of it. It’s a great hub for day trips and tours. Italian trains are extremely efficient and affordable, even more so if you book in advance. You can catch the fast train to Venice, Verona, Florence, Modena and so many more. Do consider taking advantage of this to explore further afield and see more of Italy, especially in the spring weather.

Why are you thinking of going to the Bologna Book Fair? It’s a lovely experience and in Italy too, but travelling that bit further is a big decision and investment. Think about what you are looking to get out of it. Is it about learning more about the industry? Or do you want to meet with publishers and agents directly? Bologna is different to London and Frankfurt, and is a great fair for illustrators. If you choose to go, Bologna is a beautiful city and a key event in the literary calendar.

Main image credit: Bologna Children's Book Fair 

Janne Moller has been Rights Manager at Black & White Publishing for 14 years and has been attending book fairs for almost 20 years. Born in Denmark, she has lived in Edinburgh for 15 years. Books she has worked on at Black & White include Estelle Maskame’s Did I Mention I Love You? series and The Year After You by Nina de Pass published under the B&W YA imprint, Ink Road.

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