Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2018: Preparation – Part Two

Article, photo and illustrations by Jean Mackey Lebleu, Illustrator and AOI Member

Welcome back BCBF beginners to Part TWO of our suggested preparation guidelines! (Part ONE here) Let’s get to your to-do list…

Illustrators’ Exhibition Deadline – October 4th Back in May we told you to be on the lookout for information on how to enter the 2018 Illustrators’ Exhibition of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, so you may have seen already that they announced the call for submissions on their Facebook post where you can follow the links, or follow these links for How to Take Part and the Rules of Entry 2018. The deadline is October 4th. That’s coming up quick! Also, BCBF wrote on their website that Each participant to the selection will be sent by email a code to purchase a reduced-price ticket to the 2018 Bologna Children’s Book Fair.’ If you need more clarification on any aspect of this process you can write to them in the Facebook post or email to illustratori@bolognafiere.it

BCBF Newsletter – Have you signed up yet? You can do it at the bottom of their website homepage, and keep following them on their social media for updates.

Your Passport and EHIC – Make sure your passport won’t expire on or before March 2018! If you are eligible for one, remember to bring your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) on the trip. EHICs are always FREE – if you don’t have one, click here for more information and apply now.

Airplane tickets – You really should buy them within the next two months to ensure you get the date and time you want; speaking for London, flights to Bologna in spring definitely become full because Bologna hosts conventions and conferences for several of industries.

Accommodation – Please be sure to book your accommodation before November if possible, especially if you want to stay somewhere close to the convention hall. By January all of the reasonably priced hotel rooms, B&Bs and Airbnbs will be taken; you will have to pay hundreds of euros (no kidding!) for a small room with a shared WC in the city centre, or be miles away from the convention hall. Remember to visit the Bologna tourism website for ideas and information. Keep in mind that although the fair is four days, the first three days will be the most helpful for you. On my fourth day, many exhibitors had left, there were no more portfolio reviews, the last talk ended near noon and the fair ended at 3pm.

Two opportunities to buy discount tickets: (1) In 2017, ‘Early Bird’ tickets went on sale about two months before the fair opened and availability ended about four weeks before the opening; and (2) they also offered last year an ‘Illustrator’s Discount’ on the daily rate, but you had to register, and there was a deadline for submitting your request (in 2017 it was mid-February). Once you registered, they emailed to you your own code and a special webpage link for this discount just a few weeks before the fair. To be extra sure that you will receive the code, write to Illustratori@bolognafiere.it before November, (also check the website for any new instructions/email addresses).

Dummy books and published books By now you hopefully have sorted out your strategy and ‘unique selling propositions’ as we discussed in May, are halfway finished with your dummy book, and have chosen one or two of your published books that best represent you. Why only two? Because you will have less than five minutes to present yourself at the ‘Open Portfolio’ sessions that many publishers offer, so make every minute count by showing only your most successful work. And as we said in May, if you want to write as well as illustrate your own books but you haven’t been published yet then you absolutely must bring at least one dummy book to demonstrate your storytelling abilities.

Portfolio Examples of the work that best represents your strengths and interests, presented either in an A4 portfolio case, a bound book (which you can make online of course) or even on a tablet (a mini tablet probably won’t do justice to your work, so try to keep it larger). If you believe an A3 portfolio is best, that’s fine, but anything bigger is not expected.

Business cards, mini portfolio, other ‘leave behind’ Paper quality should be sturdy and present your work in the best way possible but it’s not necessary to spend a fortune.

Appointments You may be wondering if it is necessary to write or call publishers and agents in advance to secure an appointment with them at the fair. In many cases, this wasn’t necessary; in 2017, I met three agents and 12 publishers without having made any appointments in advance – it was all through the ‘Open Portfolio’ sessions that they advertised either at the fair or on their social media. But if you want to try to secure your own appointment with someone specific, be sure to contact them in autumn to find out if meeting is a possibility. As for agents, the ones on the exhibition floor will give you information on how to submit work, or may even look at your work, but the ones upstairs in the Literary Agents Centre this past year were not seeing illustrators or writers. Perhaps that may change in the future, but when I went to ask I saw that they were so busy, they had to eat lunch at their tables during their meetings, so just keep that in mind.

Remember to make a list of the publishers you want to prioritise at the fair. If you need ideas for publishers, click here to look at the list of exhibitors who were at the 2017 fair.

In January 2018 we will have Part Three, in which we will discuss how to make the most of the fair when you get there. Until then, happy drawing and don’t forget the 4th of October deadline!


1st October 2017
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