I guess I can only say what it meant to me as a first-timer. Hopefully something will resonate with you!
Herewith are my takeaways:
- POV: our world is only as big as our experience. After eleven focused years in the children’s book industry, I have a fairly decent feel for the US market. However, I learned at the Fair that many publishers outside of the US use very different illustration styles, make very unique books, and take what appear to be risks in illustration and content I never would have considered possible. Question: how can I/we push my work into fresh territories that I now see are possible? How can my work land on the front end of the curve?
- there are a. lot. of. books. being. published. I still can’t fully assimilate the vast worldwide industry of children’s book making and selling. This is exciting because it is a clear indication the market is robust. But it can also be paralyzing in that could there possibly be a story left untold? kind of way. Question: how can I/we create a story that is uniquely mine to tell?
- foreign rights are important to the longevity of a book. They aren’t something to glaze over in your contract. (oops) I learned at the Fair that if the rights for your books aren’t sold soon after it launches, there may be a market for them later. For example, multi-published author Miranda Paul shared that her book about siblings, Mia Moves Out, was of interest to a Chinese publisher because China is now experiencing more families with siblings. Interesting, right?
The pub house may have new buyers or may have changed their interests in general. Question: how can you be your own foreign rights advocate? Miranda held a showcase for her books and had reached out to possible foreign rights people in advance of the Fair. She had discussions with them at the Fair and if they expressed interest in a title, she passed their contact information on to her agent and/or publishing team. Other SCBWI people made these kind of connections at the Fair and goodness, it was exciting!
- engaging with people at the Fair is important. We never know where our engagement might lead. One friend was invited to speak at an event because she met the organizer at the Fair. Another had “interesting discussions” with an agent. Question: in what ways can I reach out and offer something memorable for new contacts to take with them? Bring your engaging bookmarks, business cards, and/or other small and easy to pack trinkets displaying your contact information to share.
- once again, SCBWI offers safe harbor in a windy sea. The stand is ready for action the moment the Fair opens and is available until it closes. It’s a place to reconnect to old friends, make new ones, and at the end of the day, know that you are with your special people. Question: how can I grow my circle of SCBWI friends and include these new people in my writing framework? SCBWI always makes a big world smaller and this is very apparent at the Fair. If you are putting off going because you won’t know anyone there, start your day at Stand 26 B 76.
- diverse perspectives make things much more interesting! I spent time with people from Australia, France, Spain, Switzerland, Singapore, and Poland. We chatted about our unique challenges and opportunities. Each conversation opened my eyes just a bit wider to the world outside my own. Question: what can I learn from other perspectives that might inform my own work?
There are so many ways in which this experience broadened my horizons. I hope you’ll put the Bologna Children’s Book Fair on your bucket list.
Ciao for now!