An Overwhelmed Publishing Student at LBF

I was told before heading down to London Book Fair that it is an overwhelming and tiring week and I was to be prepared for sore feet and a heavy bag by the end of it. Yet, I wasn’t quite prepared for just how exhausting it really is and how much of a struggle it would be trying to cram eight uncorrected proofs into my luggage for the journey home.

On Tuesday morning I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (after caffeine) and ready to take on the Fair. Halfway through that day I was overwhelmed, tired, slightly terrified, and spiralling into a ball of post-graduate stress. Now, that is not to say I did not enjoy myself, I did, but it would be a lie to say that I did not feel all those things on top of my enjoyment of the Fair.

London Book Fair is an overwhelming experience, especially for someone just starting out in the industry. There are countless things to see and do. You are rushing from seminar to seminar trying to cram in all the knowledge and advice there is to offer, all the while trying to build up the courage to network with people who are – 90% of the time – extremely busy and are there to work.

There were 131 countries represented at the Fair, there to cover a wide range of topics across a vast amount of sectors. The seminars were largely fantastic, with so much to choose from, managing your time and knowing where you were going in advance was necessary. Weaving through the crowds of LBF while rushing to the next seminar is a skill I might just put on my CV.

LBF17 was a great experience, I left with new knowledge, insights, and books (and perhaps a few new grey hairs). I genuinely cannot wait to do it all again next year – hopefully with a job.

(Side note: I also managed to get a look at the new Hogwarts House covers celebrating the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter. They are beautiful and I cannot wait for my pre-ordered Hufflepuff ones to arrive.)

My seminar highlights from LBF17:

  • Day One: Introducing New Voices of Colour in Children’s and Teen Literature.

Megaphone, a writer development scheme, held a panel showcasing their writers and the books that those writers are working on. Highlighting the need for diversity in publishing by focusing on children’s and teen literature, Megaphone are attempting to create meaningful diversity in children’s publishing by helping diverse writers get the support they need in a heavily non-diverse industry.

Children need to see themselves in books. For years there has been a lack of diversity in children’s books and the industry needs to do more in the way of actually addressing this issue, rather than occasionally saying ‘we need more diversity’ and then not doing much about it. Megaphone is doing its part in making the industry and the children’s sector more diverse for young readers who desperately need to see themselves in books.

  • Day Two: Breaking Ground: Celebrating British Writers of Colour.

Breaking Ground is a publication from Speaking Volumes that highlights 200 contemporary British writers of colour who you very well may not have heard about. The Breaking Ground project is funded by the arts council and describes itself as an ongoing project that works to highlight the diversity that exists within writers of colour. There is diversity in their writing and the stories they tell and the project is trying to find ways to get lesser known writers of colour to the forefront of people’s attention.

In an industry with a diversity problem projects like Breaking Ground are important. They highlight the talent that is out there, some of which are still waiting to be recognised (40 on the list are unpublished), and the gatekeepers who are essentially stifling their voices. Change can only happen if the gatekeepers change, or the gatekeepers perceptions change and projects like this one aim to help those changes along.

  • Day Three: What’s the Problem with Translated Children’s Books?

This panel began by telling us that they had decided to shift its focus from looking at the problems faced in the world of translated children’s books to looking for solutions to those problems. They were looking at ways in which they could celebrate the books that have already been translated and hoping that by highlighting those works they could show the industry that translations in children’s literature are essential. (Riveting Reads, a publication from the School Library Association, has a guide of 150 translated children’s books that already exist.)

The panel expressed, passionately, that there is great value in translated books in the educational environment. Children absorb stereotypes from the books that surround them, without translated children’s books we cannot fully help them become world citizens with a rich understanding of other people’s cultures.