London Book Fair — After-action report

I went down to the London Book Fair last Wednesday in order to network with other publishing professionals and hopefully drum up some freelance proofreading work. I can best describe the events of the day by reproducing and expanding upon my hand-written notes. Any time between specifically noted events was largely spent wandering the highways and byways of the Fair.

08.38 Glinka’s “Overture to Ruslan and Lyudmila” was playing on Classic FM as I started for the rail station. As this is one of my favourite pieces of music, I decided to take this as a good omen.

08.50 I arrived at the station a full hour before my train was due in. This gave me time to work on my notes, plan my route around the Fair in more detail, and plan conversational strategies.

12.30 I arrived at the Book Fair and immediately headed to the Independent Publishers Guild stand, intending to start my networking there. This was not wholly successful, as the stand was quite busy and there were no people with time to talk.

12.54 I decided to come back to the IPG stand at a later time, and was drawn towards the stand for Titan Books by a large poster displaying the Eleventh Doctor. I had a very enjoyable chat with one of the editorial staff on the stand, to whom I was able to give a business card and a copy of my poetry project. The conversation went quite well, I think, and I am confident that it will bear science fiction, fantasy, or detective-fiction-flavoured fruit in due course.

13.06 Buoyed up by my success with Titan, I found myself walking past the Flame Tree Publishing stand. Their display of elaborately designed sketchbooks proved to be quite a conversation-starter, as one cover matched my T-shirt exactly (both designs being based on van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’). We chatted a little about Flame Tree’s range of guidebooks, and I was given an email address to which I could send a CV and covering email. Another possible success, I feel.

13.14 I wafted past Accent Press and had a brief chat about publishing, from which I gained the information that sending a covering email and CV to the address on their website’s Contact Us page might prove profitable.

13.58 By chance, I stopped by the Imperial War Museum’s stand. I hadn’t particularly intended to visit them, but my eye was caught by an impressively well-kept Royal typewriter, which cannot have dated from later than the early Interbellum (so, early 1920s) and could easily have been pre-First World War. My eye was then drawn to the various books on display, which mainly focussed on the two World Wars. I was particularly drawn by a copy of The British Spy Manual (the actual manual used by SOE operatives), a joint operation between IWM and Aurum Press. I was approached by one of the Marketing delegates, who initiated a friendly chat and gave me a business card for the IWM Publishing Officer. I came away from the stand with a significant lead for proofreading work and several birthday present ideas for history buffs of my acquaintance. 😀

14.12 I briefly stopped by the stand for Matador, the self-publishing arm of Troubador Publishing, and picked up details of people to whom I should send my CV.

14.24 Break to dig into my packed lunch.

14.55 I had a brief chat with the folks at the Austin Macauley stand, receiving the send-a-CV-and-covering-email advice, as well as the information that I should also send examples of projects that I have previously worked on.

15.15 Chocolate brownie from refreshment stand. Extortionately priced but very tasty.

16.00 I stopped by Engine House VFX for a chat, and clarified that while they sometimes do writing-based projects, these usually involve scriptwriting, so they would not have much reason to employ the services of a freelance proofreader.

16.15 I decided to call it a day, as the size and noise levels of the Fair were becoming overwhelming.

Overall, my experience of the London Book Fair was mixed-to-positive. I’m not all that enchanted with London itself, especially the rush hour. However, I did manage to pick up a few promising-looking leads, so I’ll see how those play out.

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