Bologna Children’s Book Fair: Agents Insight

Attending the Bologna Children’s Book Fair is exciting, and sometimes slightly overwhelming. It pays to know what you want to achieve, and how to get the best out of meeting art directors. With the right advice and planning you can make the most of the Fair’s opportunities.

Many Agents, both for artwork and literary/artwork attend Bologna, and we asked Penny from Holroyde Cartey and Steph from The Artworks for their top tips for the Children’s Book Fair.

Stephanie Alexander-Jinks: The Artworks Inc

What does attending Bologna mean to you?

It’s such a brilliant event, the atmosphere is amazing. It’s absolutely essential to us for the Children’s publishing side of the business.

Do you encourage illustrators to contact you for meetings at Bologna? If so how do you like to be approached?

It’s quite difficult to see artists as we usually have back to back meetings (up to 14 a day with little breaks). It would be easier if someone was to email us in advance of the trip, find out if we are going then arrange a time and place to meet once they have shown us some examples of their work so we can see if we are invested before the meeting. It’s different for Publishers who have large stands and you can take your work and show it. But this might be worth trying for them too.

Another good thing to do would be to have a very excellent business card and small promotion to leave on the stand with clear contact details that’s not a flimsy bit of paper that will slip away, but it needs to be small and manageable. Remember this is your chance, if it’s just a business card that has a little icon and a phone number, that won’t get the attention of the Art Directors. Make sure you are able to access emails and take phone calls throughout your time there as you never know who might be calling you.

What are the essential things for illustrators to look at in Bologna Fair?

Look at as many stands as you can and see what books are out there, what kind of books do you want to do and who publishes them. It’s easy to observe this, and they have such great displays. It’s such an amazing visual resource and it’s important to spend time observing in detail what’s there. It’s quite easy to get overwhelmed. But once you have made the observations you then have a great list of the right publishers to approach either when you are there or when you get back.

What should illustrators prepare for if they plan to attend the Bologna Book Fair

It’s very busy so travel as light as you can. Don’t haul giant folios or bags around – if you are lucky enough to get an appointment you will be perched on a tiny table as space is limited. You need to be able to show as much work as you can as clearly and simply as possible and not be fumbling about. Practice presenting and thinking about the order, and that you might only get 5 mins. We still take traditional folios and I think people like that, but digital is fine too. What ever suits you. There is also a large area to pin your work up that everyone looks around. It’s a giant Gallery and all the illustrators pin their contact details on. So make sure you have an A4 piece of your best work that has your contact details on the front. This will give you the best chance to be seen, as a little business card can often get eclipsed but a poster or two will be noticed. People do stick work on top of others work as the boards get more crowded, so think about how your work will stand out.

Are you looking out for anything in particular this year?

We go there to focus on getting book projects for our artists. But for our illustration search we look for drawing skills orginialty and professionalism.


Penny Holroyde: Holroyde Cartey – Literary Agency

What does attending Bologna mean to you?

Bologna is the largest international congregation of people singularly focused on children’s publishing. It’s vital for us to attend!

Do you encourage illustrators to contact you for meetings at Bologna? If so how do you like to be approached?

Our appointment schedule was full by January; we have 60 appointments in 3 days representing our existing portfolio to publishers. That said, Bologna is the only international conference solely dedicated to children’s publishing, and it can be fairly cheap to get there (book early!)

Publishers and agents are busy and get handed loads of stuff so it goes without saying that yours has to stand out. I think a postcard-size is better than business-card size and it should include a child, or an animal looking like a child. This sounds elementary but we see plenty of portfolios without children in them! Of course, it’s difficult to show acuity with composition on a piece that size, but really think about where to place the character. It could be interacting with your contact details, for example, or with the edge of the card. If you have good hand-lettering, use that for your contact details – your name and website url are sufficient here.

What should illustrators prepare for if they plan to attend the Bologna Book Fair?

Wear trainers – there’s a lot of ground to cover.

Pack a sandwich.

Go to the foreign halls – France, Korea – see what other countries are publishing.

Find out which publishers are having stand parties and gatecrash them.

Have a kick-ass business card/postcard that is totes representative of how you want work.

If you do happen to bump in to a publisher/agent in the sandwich/taxi queue, be ready with your elevator pitch, charisma, calling card.

If you are lucky enough to catch someone’s eye for a show-and-tell, be prepared with a small portfolio that you can whip out quickly and easily. Include 6-10 images (include children – see above!) and composition. Try to choose images that are all in the same style – publishers don’t want to see variation at this point – and include colour and black and white images, and hand-lettering if you can do it. If you have story ideas, practice your elevator pitch so it’s really slick.

I know these meetings are potentially scary but really try and listen to what you’re hearing and watch for what people are focusing on to get an idea of their taste. Finally, know when your time in the meeting is up and try and get that person’s contact details. Again, this sounds elementary but it’s a manic and busy environment and although you think you may never forget the meeting or the person’s name, you might! Try and take a moment afterwards to jot down your thoughts and their name, if you didn’t get a business card.

Are you looking out for anything in particular this year?

If Holroyde Cartey had a USP, it would be author/illustrator. People who are equally good at art as they are story telling!

Don’t miss the AOI Bologna 2019 Guide here

13th March 2019

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