Do’s and Don’ts for a Newbie at The London Book Fair

The London Book Fair is an exciting event in the world of publishing, but it can be daunting for first timers, such as Sarah and Clare from the Turnaround marketing team. They have come together to offer their thoughts and guidance to other LBF virgins, and are happy to answer any further questions in the comments.


Sarah’s Advice/Thoughts:

  • The Dream: Be prepared: LBF is a book lovers dream come true. Soooooo many delightful books! Try not to get too absorbed – you might find yourself strolling back to your stand at 6pm when everyone has left..!
  • The Main Goal is to give out as many business cards as possible and receive as many business cards as possible… always remember this! Network, network, network.
  • Having a drink or two, or three..: Don’t get trashed on the first night as you will NOT function for the rest of the book fair! Maybe just don’t get too intoxicated until the final night, otherwise your motor function skills may decline rapidly over the rest of the week…
  • Thief! There are many books… try not to take any, most are just there for display and not to give away… some may not realise this. Keep your eyes peeled!
  • Working your schedule: You might want to free up the weekend before and after the book fair; before, so there’s time to store your energy and after, so you can re-charge. You’ll definitely want to be fresh faced to greet all the many new and exciting folk at the fair.
  • Contacts: If you happen to know anyone attending the fair, make sure you make the effort to say hello, it’s always nice to be friendly and widen your network within the industry. It’s also a sensible thing to make a list of the people you’d like to speak with in advance and see if you can quickly introduce yourself. Try not to blather on like Hamlet’s Polonius though, no-one needs another character like that; keep it short a sweet as everyone will be pretty busy with meetings and appointments!
  • The Offer that is Too Good To Be True: Be aware of anyone that offers you a massage… they are like sirens luring you in the darkness until you realise you have to pay for their services. By that time, it’ll be too late. *gulp
  • Familiarise Yourself: It’s always a good idea to map out the area at LBF before you arrive as it’s a bit like a maze and you may well end up in Wonderland…
  • !!!!!: Bring plasters. Don’t ask why, just do it.
  • Enjoy! Most importantly, have FUN! I know I did! And attend as many after party events as you can 😉 Especially if you notice one of ours!
busy busy busy

Learnin’ with Clare

SET UP: wear something mangy, you will probably get paint on you. The fair will be a building site at this stage, so make sure you’re up to date on tetanus shots etc. If you find yourself without a job, everybody always wants another coffee!

DRESS CODE: very varied! Stay the smarter side of casual – there will be lots of suits having scary looking meetings – but don’t be afraid to be you*. (*this, in publishing, is code for cat print dresses and skirts, but feel free to branch out to other small mammals)

HYDRATION: drink like a fish throughout the day – you’ll be on your feet a LOT and swooning into a faint is less romantic than Austen would have you believe.

SNACKS: maintain a constant blood sugar level by eating pastries/chocolates/canapés throughout the day; I would recommend an ammunition belt packed with granola bars. The fair is vast, and the constant walking and talking will drain you more than you might expect. Try foraging around for free snacks – I had a great That’s Not My Unicorn announcement rainbow cupcake from the Usborne stand (and only had one rainbow-crumb coughing fit! #classy).

EXPLORE: the book fair is a jungle of dreams, and I can guarantee you will come away in love with a  publisher/book series you’ve never heard of before. Consider a trail of breadcrumbs for finding your way home again, though they may get munched on by newbies who did not heed the point above.

SPEAK TO PEOPLE: everybody at the book fair has at least one piece of knowledge that you don’t yet have. Make it your mission to get to know people and learn as much as possible, as you bask in the book-glow together. If you’re manning a stand, try to be clear and concise with your advice – plenty of people are in for the long haul, and it’s better to quickly establish if you can’t help each other so they can be on their way. Always try to be gentle and friendly, and take the high road if people are rude – they are probably just more tired than you.

BUSINESS CARDS: see American Psycho. They don’t need to be diamond encrusted, but good to show some personality if you’re representing yourself! I ran out and had to borrow some from Sarah, scribbling her name out and mine in. Brutal.

spot the difference

SEMINARS: pick in advance, and arrive half an hour early. Half an hour, I’m serious. Mine filled up super quick, and if you don’t want to be sitting on the floor or peeping in from outside you will do this. With the extra time, help out the speaker by tweeting about your excitement – the publishing world loves Twitter! If you enjoy a speaker, go introduce yourself afterwards, if only to get a copy of the slides/a business card. Nobody gets annoyed by popularity.

PARTIES: Circulate, oozing charm, introduce people with thoughtful and personal anecdotes and ­– well, that advice didn’t even work for Bridget. It’s tough, but try to venture out by yourself and chat to some strangos. Promise yourself an extra glass of wine and a double dessert canapé as a reward. If you aren’t invited to any, do a quick lap around 5pm and see which stand is panicking about not having bottle openers/enough plastic cups  (us) – swoop in to save the day, and set up camp by the liquor table.

HAVE FUN AND BE YOURSELF: come for the books, stay for the exhausted, sweaty but unendingly charming Turnaround team.

our B.A.M.F boss



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