One week to go until London Book Fair kicks off – 10th – 12th April, at the London Olympia.
The Book Fair is huge, hard to navigate, and frankly baffling at times. There are plenty of tips and lists telling you how to survive the fair (here, here and here for example), but what is life without a running leap onto a bandwagon?
- Wear flat shoes. Wear comfy shoes. Wear shoes that are kind to your poor, poor feet.
- It is super hot in there. Wear light layers for your trip in, the kind that can be removed easily.
- Bring a backpack, in which to store the aforementioned light layers, a folder with CVs, a spare charging pack for your phone, a bottled beverage of your choice, and the seventeen tote bags you will acquire within ten minutes of arriving.
- Food in the venue is eye-wateringly expensive, however there is a Tesco right across the road from the front entrance. A Tesco meal deal will set you back a princely sum of £3.00, but I would pick this up in the morning – by lunch time it looks like there’s been a raid in there, and it’s nothing but a few sad egg sandwiches.
- Keep an eye out for free pens (usually Inspired Selection are a solid shout for these) and sweets (Bonnier gave out tubs of pick-and-mix if you signed up for their job directory last year). If you are really lucky you might even find free wine.
- Get the App. This will make it easier to schedule talks and workshops, and mean you aren’t constantly wrestling with a giant paper map.
- Be prepared for the fact that you probably won’t get the hang of reading the map until the last day.
- You probably won’t need to go all day for all three days. I tried that last year and had Regrets. Instead, calculate your visit times for when will be most valuable for you.
- Don’t hand out your CV to all and sundry, sometimes business cards will be better. Order these in good time, make them stand out.
- Some stands will have not only tote bags, but book proofs. Try not to get overexcited – if you pick up a load of books in the morning, guess what you have to carry around all day.
- Seating is at a premium, be prepared to sit on the floor.
- Don’t expect many people from publishers to be able to speak to you during the fair. This is a busy time for them, and if they are standing still for two minutes it will be because they are trying to calculate if they have time to squeeze another meeting in between the twenty other meetings they already have scheduled.
- Instead, attend any talks they are giving and be engaged and interested. Make a note of what events are happening in the evenings – in 2017, the IPG hosted drinks after the fair had closed, and SYP usually have networking drinks planned – check twitter pages for information.
- I personally found the BookCareers Job Clinic really useful, as they have recruiters from a wide selection of publishers who can look at your CV and advise you on layout and what you need to do to target a career with them. Get there Very Early, the queue is super long and entry is not guaranteed.
- Also, at the end of each day the same number of people who filled the Olympia will do their level best to fit into the Cumberland Arms, just across the road from the front entrance. This is probably what hell feels like, and you will wait three weeks to get to the bar, but it’s definitely worth a visit if you are after casual networking.
- If you are going in a group, don’t worry about trying to stick together, instead set up a group chat on your platform of choice and pick one of the following games to play.
- Real life Where’s Wally? – particularly effective as the fair takes place across two levels, and has balconies around the ground floor areas, giving a peak bird’s eye view.
- The Rules: Spend the fair attempting to take photographs of other members of your group without them seeing you, send the photos to the group chat. Points are awarded for the number of photos you manage to take, and deducted for how many are taken of you.
- Slow motion ‘tag’
- The Rules: no running, keep track of who is ‘it’ through the group chat, and tag each other as you pass during the fair.
- Book-fashion scavenger hunt
- The Rules: Take photos of people wearing cute, bookish clothes and then share with the group, along with where it was built. Friends help friends look cute.
- Spot the Dog
- The Rules: Occasionally there is a puppy at the book fair. If you spot one, you are honour-bound to inform everyone in the group chat immediately of its location.
- The Rules: first person to get to the pub has to bag a table, and then as the evening wears on you will attempt to try and squeeze more and more people around it. There aren’t really any winners in this game.