LONDON BOOK FAIR Visiting as an author


Last week,
Words & Pictures' Production Editor, Tracy Curran, travelled to London Book Fair to soak up the atmosphere and see what all the buzz is about...

Part of me is still wondering why I decided to visit London Book Fair. Although I was lucky enough to obtain a free ticket for entry on Wednesday 13th March, it still meant that I had to catch a 5.30am train from Cornwall and, due to family duties, return on the same day. Yet it seemed silly to pass up the opportunity to go when I've heard so much talk about book fairs and how big they are within the industry. I'm a newly agented author whose MG novel is currently on submission plus I have just started the Publishing module on the Bath Spa MA course in Writing for Young People. So...why not? At least I'd get about ten hours to read and write on the journey there and back.

Overlooking an array of meetings. If only I could have listened in.

Getting to the venue was easier than I could have imagined and, once inside, I was hit by an incredible sight. There were stands upon stands of publishers from the UK, France, Italy, the US, Turkey - you name it - and hoards of people networking and chatting and holding meetings. The atmosphere was really a joy to be part of and, as I wound my way around the children's section, my eyes widened at seeing my favourite publishers and even some industry faces who I recognised - not that they recognised me, of course. This is an industry I've longed to be part of and, even though I am the tiniest of tiniest cogs in the wheel with a couple of contracted books, I am part of it. This felt like quite a special realisation and I enjoyed the fact that, instead of sitting at home in front of my laptop, I was here seeing all the cogs in the wheel working together to make things happen. 

This initial feeling didn't last particularly long. By the time I'd done a few laps without seeing anyone who knew me and without the confidence to just walk up to people and start conversations, I was back to feeling a bit lost. But there were talks I wanted to sit in on and so I looked at my planned timetable and got stuck in. First I listened to a great discussion entitled Diversifying Authors, Diversifying Income, which was led by a disabled author and an LGBTQ+ author. Even though these were authors of adult books, hearing about their stories, their struggles and the journey into the industry was fascinating and much of what they were saying resonated with children's publishing too - underrepresented voices need to be heard. Also, can writers write outside of their experience? Well, that was an interesting discussion.

The talks got more and more interesting as the day went on and I absorbed loads of material for my publishing module. Although I missed out on a talk by Richard Osman because it was packed out, the highlight for me was going to see Elle McNicol, author of A Kind of Spark. This book was published by Knights Of in 2020 and then adapted by the BBC. My children absolutely loved this adaptation and it resonated hugely with our family dynamic. Hearing her talk alongside a BBC scriptwriter and being on the front row is something I will always remember. 

Elle McNicol spoke about how the BBC adapted her book into a screenplay

Following this, I rushed across the venue to catch the end of a talk by children's illustrator, Flavia Z. Drago. Flavia has penned and illustrated some of my favourite picture books including Gustavo, the Shy Ghost and Leila, The Perfect Witch, published by Walker Books. Listening to her speak about her creative process, she delivered the exact advice I needed to hear: 

Keep pushing yourself. Sit down and do the hard work.

Yep, if I want to get my novel written in time for my MA deadline, I need to do exactly that.  

Gustavo, The Shy Ghost, written and illustrated by Flavia Z. Drago and published by Walker Books, 2021

With time ticking and the last train home leaving at 6pm from Paddington, I only had time for one more talk. Where had the day gone? I queued for the main stage and listened to a talk on Inclusivity and Diversity. Again, this centred around the adult market but it all felt relevant. We heard from The Black Writers Guild which was set up to support black writers, about how content - especially digital content - needs to be made more accessible to disabled people and how men seem to be performing less successfully than women within the industry. This caused a bit of contention within the audience and reminded me that it was time to head off - but I found the whole discussion incredibly interesting to listen to. 

Thankfully, I didn't miss the train. It was delayed for over an hour and I got home at midnight. But stepping outside my front door and making the trip was enlightening and inspiring. One day, just maybe, a book of mine might find its way onto one of the display boards. And, if not, I'm truly glad to have been a part of it for a single day. 

*Header image and frame by Tita Berredo

*Images of London Book Fair taken by Tracy Curran


Tracy Curran is the Production Editor for Words & Pictures and enjoys writing picture books, young fiction and lower middle-grade novels. Known as Little Cornish Writer, you can find her on InstagramTwitter and Facebook

She also enjoys reviewing children's books on her blog The Breadcrumb Forest.


Tita Berredo is the Illustrator Coordinator of SCBWI British Isles and the Art Director of Words & Pictures. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter or
Contact her

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this Tracy. I've always wondered what goes on at a book fair and how it would feel being there. So interesting! Tessax


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