It was my first trip to Bologna and I’m glad that the Children’s Book Fair was the reason for that.
I work as an art director and graphic designer, mostly for ad agencies, but creating picture books for children has been always on my list of things to do. So far I’ve been just collecting picture books (mostly from my native Poland as illustration for children and book art in general is very strong in this country – check Wytwornia and Wydawnictwo Dwie Siostry to see their impressive offer) and, in the past – when I was living in Poland, I used to work on a regular basis for a few publishing houses and a few magazines as a freelance illustrator.
1. “Bajka Benzynowa”, my very first picture book, illustrated for LOTOS (c.1998)
2. Set of illustrations for a Polish psychological magazine “Charaktery” (c. 2000)
3. “Cinderella”, illustration for Gdanskie Wydawnictwo Oswiatowe.
4. “Rybostwory” (“Fishycreatures”), personal project.
I was never short of commissions but I craved an adventure – I wanted to see how it is to live and work in a different country. In 2006 I came to Ireland and, because of various reasons, I decided to focus on graphic design work only, but, on the back of my head, there has been always this urge to illustrate for children again. Over the years I’ve been creating short picture books and this year I decided it’s time to show at least one of them to some publishers. Children’s Book Fair seemed to be a perfect opportunity for doing this and finally, after years of considering this move (am I really ready yet?), I booked my flights.
Here’s the book I finished a day before my trip and made a dummy to take it with myself (‘Benzie, the big angry cat’):
Before I set off, I had read a few blog posts of other illustrators who have already attended the fair in the past and the tips I found there were priceless, so I’m going to share them and add my own ones.
1. Want to show your portfolio to selected publishers? Book your appointments months before the fair.
That’s the thing I didn’t know before my trip… The publishers at the fair are pretty busy with important appointments (eg. to buy or sell books rights) so to make sure they will even bother to look at your portfolio, get in touch well in advance – and if they like your work, for sure they will want to meet you in person.
I saw some free publishers, willing to spare a few minutes for a quick chat – this is a great opportunity to exchange your cards. Some publishers have even boxes for illustrators’ cards so nobody wastes their time.
2. Don’t carry a backpack, take a trolley.
The fair is massive and it’s likely you’ll be taking loads of cards and other promo materials, possibly also books, so think about your back and legs.
In my case walking for 9h a day in order to see as much as possible in a short time frame (I could be at the fair for only 1,5 day) can be exhausting and you don’t want to carry any unnecessary weight.
Nada Serafimovic (left) & I (right); still asleep 😉
3. Take a tote bag for an easy access to your own cards
It’s so much easier to access your cards and put publishers’ ones in a tote bag than to your hand bag, backpack or trolley. When the tote bag becomes full, you can transfer its content to your trolley and feel like a butterfly again 😉
4. Bring a few posters to stick them on illustrators’ walls.
Business cards or, even better, A6 cards featuring your illustrations are a must but make sure you also have bigger versions to stick them on illustrators’ walls. These walls will be quickly covered by thousands (sic!) of promo materials of your competitors, so it’s better if you stand out – size helps here. To make your life easy, put a double-sided tape on your posters before you leave – thanks to this you won’t need to carry any extra tape and scissors (you can’t even take scissors on a plane!). Get also some blue tac just in case – if you decide to stick some cards too. Some people get really creative and add to their posters boxes for business cards so it’s easy to take one (and to put many cards in such a box).
5. Make your own breakfast & lunch.
It’s not about the price, it’s not about queuing, it’s about the comfort of having what you like.
To me Italian panini (sandwiches) are dry and boring – Italians don’t put neither butter nor any other spread in them (how come?) and the filling is not very sophisticated – it’s usually pancetta and cheese. No lettuce, no other vedges and forget about any fancy stuff.
You can get a pizza but it’s nothing special at the fair – I saw just some basic stuff only. How ironic.
It’s also good to carry a bottle of water – talking to so many people can easily dehydrate you 😉
There’s a few bars at the fair and queuing doesn’t take more than a few minutes.
And if you like coffee – cappuccino (you can also say cappuccio) everywhere in Bologna is amazing!
6. Make time to chat to other illustrators.
Being at the fair is a great way to make long lasting friendships, because of the interest you have in common – think also how nice it would be to meet these people at another fairs and industry events.
7. Attend books/apps presentations to learn about trends.
Fashions change and everything evolves so it’s good to be up to date with what’s going on.
I saw some interesting presentations of digital products and stats regarding how children and young adults use their digital devices.
8. Share a taxi!
At some stage you’ll be leaving the fair and going to the airport. You won’t be the only one so why not to share a taxi? You will pay less plus you might have an opportunity to talk business in the car (as I did) 😉
9. Learn a bit of Italian 😉
It’s a beautiful language and not many Italians speak English, especially the older ones, so it will be useful to know some basics such as:
– un cappuccino per favore (one cappuccino please);
– una bottiglia d’aqua naturale/gasata (one bottle of still/sparkling water);
– una brioche (one croissant);
– grazie (thank you);
– arrivederci (good bye);
– ci vediamo l’anno prossimo? (see you next year?).
Below you’ll find more photos from the fair, enjoy!
Wszystko gra with amazing illustrations by Marta Ignerska.
Polish Wydawnictwo Wytwórnia.
Polish Publishing house Dwie Siostry.
Iranian stand with pretty amazing, award-winning illustrations.
Another stand with great books.
Kveta Pacovska signing her books.
Some great book illustrations.
Stunning book from Taiwan.
Lunch break 🙂
“With a few bricks” – a beautiful app’s presentation.
Here you can find a video made of above and additional photos.