Last month, our Rights and Export Coordinator, Khadija Caffoor – along with Text’s Publisher Michael Heyward and Senior Editor Penny Hueston – went to the London Book Fair.
The London Book Fair is the global marketplace for rights negotiations and the sale and distribution of content across print, audio, TV, film and digital channels. Staged annually, LBF sees more than 25,000 publishing professionals arrive in London for one week to learn, network, and kick off their year of business.
We asked Khadija to keep a diary for a day so that we can see what exactly goes on at this fair in London that the rest of us aren’t going to as we sit here in our office and work on the books in Melbourne and not be there with the other publishing people sitting and drinking and chatting and hobnobbing. (And to be clear, we are NOT jealous. We’re not. Really, we aren’t. We love being in the office here and not in London. Not in London. Why would we want to be there?)
Read on and find out what actually happens during one of the biggest events on the international publishing calendar…
TUESDAY – FAIR DAY 1
Past experience tells me to keep my fair entry pass safe. I pin it to my blazer at waist height (so my poodle pin can stay on my lapel).
Have got super organised with a notebook (purple), stapler (purple), and pen (purple 4-colour Bic). Feel very coordinated and prepared, and looking forward to taking all my notes in purple (Very whimsical! Much fun!). [Five minutes into my first meeting, I feel like a toddler, or girls who dot their ‘i’s with hearts. Make mental note to bring black pen tomorrow. Forget to do this. Am forced to write in cutesy-teal for the rest of the fair.]
- 7 a.m. – Wake up early to send a few emails. Am completely on top of my game and feeling totally ready for the week ahead.
- 8.05 a.m. – Realise I’m now running late and have no time to wash my hair.
- 8.47 a.m. – Arrive at fair early. No queue. Nobody questions my pass. All going well, and I head to our table to set up.
- 9.15 a.m. – Set up books, catalogues, guides, and tote bags on our shelf. I buy half a dozen bottles of water to get us through the day.
- 9.16 a.m. – Smack my head against the shelf while organising the books. Face is bleeding. Luckily, the scratch is mostly covered by my fringe.
- 9.30 a.m. – My first meeting arrives! My fair has officially started.
Meetings are scheduled for every half hour, all morning and afternoon. I get so excited talking about our amazing list of books that I keep forgetting to go to the toilet or stretch my legs between appointments. And while most of my meetings involve me talking about our books, I did have a great meeting with an agent who has some books looking for an Australian publisher. One of the books sounds like it might be a perfect fit for us, so he’s going to send it to me soon for us to read. I love hearing about what other books are out there in the world, about to be born!
- 11.29 a.m. – Am freezing. I get a coffee to warm up between appointments.
- 11.31 a.m. – Realise I left my cash in yesterday’s pockets. Look beseechingly at Michael and offer to bring him one too if he provides the money.
- 11.35 a.m. – Free chocolate biscuits at the cafe! I take a handful back for Michael. He doesn’t want one, so I eat all three.
People at the tables around us keep leaving their chairs pushed out untidily. I go around and compulsively straighten them between appointments.
- 12.30 p.m. – Meet with a lovely publisher from Israel who chatted to me about their new venture, a list of classic books they’re producing in boutique, collector-edition hardbacks — she’s looking for something quite distinctive and plot-driven. I suggest a few of my favourite Text Classics that I think would be perfect for their list. She was really keen on a couple of titles in particular, so I’ll email the manuscripts to her next week in my follow-up. Can’t wait to hear her thoughts on them!
- 1.10 p.m. – Have half an hour free due to rescheduled meeting. Eat crisps and watch Ruby Wax talk about her new book. This is very exciting. Later, I walk past fancy-looking club with leather armchairs and waiters with trays of champagne. Why aren’t our tables in there? Must look into this for next year.
- 1.20 p.m. – Wander around the halls. Nearly buy a $200 back massager.
- 2.30 p.m. – The editor in this meeting is looking for a historical literary novel and I immediately think of a book we are publishing in September, The Book of Dirt, by Bram Presser. I tell her all about this debut novel set in Prague in World War II and she says she can’t wait to read it, so I’ll send it to her when it’s ready.
- 3.45p.m. – Someone tells me Lee Child is here! Ask everyone from now on if they’ve seen him and where he might be. No luck.
In the afternoon, I have a lovely meeting with Graeme Simsion’s publisher in the Czech Republic, who is publishing The Best of Adam Sharp later this year. We chat about Graeme’s upcoming tour of the Czech Republic, and she is excited to hear about Graeme’s new new book, Two Steps Forward co-written with his wife and fellow author, Anne Buist.
- 6 p.m. – Last meeting finishes. We speed-walk to the hotel bar opposite the fair to meet with some agents and discuss their new books.
- 6.35 p.m. – Rush out of hotel and in to a cab to get to the drinks reception for the UK launch of Anne Buist’s new novel. Have a lovely chat with Anne and Graeme (Simsion) about Two Steps Forward, which a lot of people are very excited about.
- 7.10 p.m. – Realise I’m late for a drinks meeting! Luckily, they have messaged to say they’re late too.
- 8 p.m. – Drinks meeting was very informative, and we had a fun discussion about our books. They loved the sound of Jock Serong’s new book, On the Java Ridge, so I’ll send that to them soon. Decide to have dinner together nearby.
- 10.15 p.m. – We head out to a party where Half on Signature, the six-piece band made up of publishing people, is performing — this is better than it sounds, as they’ve somehow got the exact right mix of cringe and cool.
- 1.15 a.m. – Rudely told to leave by the bar staff, so we go on to an after-party at an agent’s flat.
- 3.20 a.m. – I make the very sensible decision to leave before they bring out another round of martinis. Walk back to hotel.
- 3.35 a.m. – Set up my bag and clothes for the next day. Check a few emails. Fall into bed, ready for another big day.
And there you have it: a day in the life at the London Book Fair. It’s a vital part of our publishing world and we’re delighted that we have such a crack team representing us (And yes, okay, we’re jealous—except for the teal pen part, we can do without that.)
We hope you enjoyed this glimpse of the publishing life. Please let us know if you did as we have a few more of these planned!
Your Faithful Texters.