Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Going to Bologna - or not

Most of my writerly friends are off in Bologna for the Children's Book Fair, but I'm grumbling around in the UK. At least it's sunny here - it always rains when I go to the Bologna Book Fair.

Is it worth going to BBF as a writer? That depends on what you want. If you want to sell your latest manuscript, no, it's not worth it. Publishers are not there to buy new books but to deal in foreign rights and do publishery things. And drink a lot. If you want to see what the publishing world is up to, hang out with writer- and publisher-friends and enjoy the beautiful city, Italian food and buzz - and drink a lot - yes, it's worth it.

If you have publishers you get on well with, it's worth making an appointment to meet up with them in Bologna if you're going. It shows you take the business seriously. If you have friends going, it's good fun to meet up and drink too much gin in Via Independenza of an evening. You can walk around and look at all the huge, gigantic number of children's books in print and coming into print and be either inspired or depressed. I'm always depressed - either because there is so much good stuff already, what's the point in writing another book? or because there is nothing imaginative and publishing is going to the dogs, so what's the point in writing another book?

Of course, if you are a big-name writer, your publisher will be pleased to see you and will show you off to foreign buyers and such like. But then, you won't be looking here for advice on whether to go to Bologna. For the rest of us, if you have a small publisher, they might be pleased to see you. If you write for Pearson or HarperCollins or Hachette and are not a 'name', you will be lost in the crowd. The London Book Fair is a cheaper and easier option - but of course, it's not in delightful Bologna, which is a big drawback.

So, go to Bologna for a spot of Italian springtime, fun with friends, gin, gawping at books.... all tax-deductible. If the planes are flying, of course. Or by train - Eurostar to Paris, sleeper to Italy. Lovely. Or become famous and then go to Bologna to be feted. I'm sure that would be nice, too.


  1. Wise words. I've never been to Bologna, and suspect I should feel like a wallflower if I did. maybe one year we should make up a writers' party and all go along together!

  2. Yes , LBF not going to be quite so pretty, but I'll be there! At least for a bit of it.....

  3. Never been either - suspect I would feel like a crumb in the biscuit barrel of life...

  4. Noooo, not a crumb in the biscuit barrel of life! At least if you're not famous, you can go and disgrace yourself in a gin bar without fear of paparazzi :-)