Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Bologna Children's Book Fair

Entrance. This year's theme is Alice.
I'm in Bologna, Italy at the Bologna Children's Book Fair. Many folks on twitter have asked about the fair, especially as so many agents attend and tweet about it! -- so I thought I'd do a little post about what the heck goes on here.

First of all, there is the show floor - if you've ever been to a trade show like ALA or BEA you'll be familiar with the sight of row after row of booths filled with books from every publisher in the US. The difference with Bologna is, there are not only booths for every publisher in America... there are booths for every publisher in the entire world. Publishers get a chance to look at the best of the best, so that they might "buy in" books from other countries to add to their own lists. It's truly amazing and inspiring to see what is being published elsewhere.
Costumed characters must've been boiling!

Also, as with any convention center, you get the assorted giant characters wandering around, weird giveaways and photo ops, lousy food, temperatures that range from oven-blasting heat to ice cold in the space of a few yards, etc.

The second piece of the fair is the Art. There are art galleries, art prizes, and perhaps most striking, the Walls of Art. These are white walls surrounding the main hall, that get papered over by hopeful illustrators displaying their wares. By the end of the fair, these walls are so crowded with artwork that it is dripping all over the floor.

Day 1 - the walls are just starting to fill.
Day 2 - More art to come!
Now, the part of the fair that AGENTS think is the most important: Rights selling at the Agent's Centre. You'll recall this blog post from a few years ago explaining subsidiary rights in a nutshell -- well, the rights that agents are mostly here to sell are foreign/translation rights.

One side of the agent's centre
Agents and foreign rights managers each have an assigned table in the Agent's Centre. From about 9am to about 6, agents will sit at one of these 100+ tables taking meetings. Every half hour, a new meeting. Some agents' schedules are so intense that they don't even build time in for breaks... this was a bit of a problem this year, as we didn't have an Agent Restroom! ARGH. #bathroomgate #glamorous.

The goals of most meetings include networking and putting faces to names; learning about the market in a given country; and pitching, pitching, pitching. Agents are meeting mostly with foreign publishers and foreign co-agents, and talking about their own list based on what those people say they are looking for.

Not gonna lie - it's truly exhausting. Which is why tonight I stayed in my rental apartment rather than going off to party-hop or have a dinner out. Because tomorrow... it all begins again!


  1. Thanks for this, Jenn :) Just yesterday I was thinking of how fun it would be to get to see the fair and wondering what I was missing. Those art walls are so cool and it feels like maybe they give the venue a bit cozier of a feel than a huge steel and glass convention center.

  2. There were bathrooms for agents only. I stumbled across them one day. They were on the ground floor, near an exit. Not near the escalator that took you up to the agents floor, but perhaps on the other side. Several stalls in the ladies washroom had a sign saying 'literary agents only'. But there was nothing outside mentioning this, so perhaps no one knew about it!

    1. yes I'm not very keen to get into it but basically, IN THE OLD DAYS we had bathrooms actually IN the agents centre -- this year they went away, and after VERY LOUD COMPLAINING on the first day these "special stalls" magically appeared - but they still weren't in a convenient location if you have 30 seconds between meetings (most people don't get real breaks) - and there was no one who could possibly ENFORCE it, so -- yeah. Ugh. Whatever. #bathroomgate


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