London Book Fair 2017: A First Timer’s Perspective

London Book Fair 2017: A First Timer’s Perspective


London Book Fair 2017 was my first both as an exhibitor and an attendee. The fair which was again held at London’s Olympia in Kensington is easily accessible from Cork via a short flight to Heathrow and tube to Baron’s Court.

Preparation is everything and meetings can be arranged and planned in advance via the LBF website. My main target before travelling was the launch of a new author website for our long-time client, David Gilman. And although I had some weeks to prepare for the London Book Fair, meeting that self-imposed deadline was akin to Indiana Jones and the rolling boulder scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. With that metaphorical boulder bearing down on me I managed to launch the site on the day before travelling to London.

Having that website up and running allowed me to demonstrate the latest and greatest in ExpressionEngine 3 goodness to interested parties and equally to bore non-interested parties silly with talk of meta tags and stylised Twitter feeds. The LBF was also my first opportunity, as the lone member of IPAC that is not based in the UK, to meet the people with whom I would be sharing a stand.

First things first, it’s big, very big. Not as big, I’m told, as Frankfurt, but a huge space nonetheless. Any advice you read about comfortable footwear is not to be ignored. Over three days you can clock up some impressive mileage and may be digitally congratulated for your efforts by your Google Fit app. On Tuesday alone I walked over 12 kilometres, although that may be partly down to the fact that the event map and stand numbering system are downright obtuse!


Health benefits aside there is a great deal to be seen at LBF, as the saying goes, there is something for everyone. There are talks, seminars and workshops available throughout the building on subjects ranging from rights, to digital to children’s books. It’s quite easy to dip in and out of various talks just by hovering on the edges of the seated area.
One seminar that stood out for me was the somewhat awkwardly titled “Market and Build: How New Voices and New Properties are Guided to Market Success” in which industry panellists from various departments spoke about the life-cycle of an original manuscript and it’s approval process through the different departmental tiers of a publishing house. It was interesting to hear the hard facts about assessing the saleability of a title from Ruth Tinham of Kings Road Publishing. This is the crucial point at which art and commerce intersect and an author’s dreams can be brought to a grinding halt by the hard numbers of projected sales and the profit-guided motives of supermarket buyers. The panel was focussed on children’s titles but the points raised could be applied to any market sector.


Rebecca McNally of Bloomsbury spoke about the importance of the commissioning editor being fully behind the book as it would take every shred of passion for a title to convince the other departments of it’s viability. The assembled audience looked on with equal parts interest and fear, for aspiring authors this was a real-life drama of the most nerve-wracking kind.

Elsewhere the main talking points were the possible effects of Brexit on the publishing industry and the resurgence of print over digital.


Thanks to one of my IPAC colleagues I was able to get my hands on a preview of the forthcoming Anthony Horowitz book, The Word is Murder. In this intriguing first chapter, we see Anthony as both author and character in a genre-bending, fourth wall-breaking murder mystery that is scheduled for a September release by Penguin Random House.

Of course the fair is now over but here’s a list of tips for the next event or things my future self would like to impart to my past-self of a week ago!


  • Bring your own bottled water or 40 year old single malt if you prefer, as either of these is cheaper than buying water at the various concessions in the hall!
  • Have plenty of business cards to hand. You can, of course rent QR code scanners but the humble business card is a much more personable solution than being scanned and beeped like a stray dog! Much props to for getting my own new cards down to London just in time for day one of the fair.
  • Mind your manners! At the lunchtime rush you may have to share a table so don’t hog seats you are not using. And you never know with whom you might strike up a conversation.
  • Ideally have the option of 3G/4G connection for your mobile device or laptop. Wifi is available but is consistently inconsistent in it’s reliability.


Overall it was a great event to attend and a fantastic opportunity to meet authors, publishers and agents. It’s one of the few places where you can see the entire publishing eco-system at work under one (spectacular) roof.