MA Publishing Students Visit the London Book Fair

As part of the ‘Business to Publishing’ module, the MA Publishing students took a trip to the London Book Fair and here, Christofere, a full-time student, writes about her experience.

I had no idea what to expect before I visited the London Book Fair and went with an open mind. My first thoughts upon arrival was the amount of people and publishing houses represented.

Walking around it was very difficult to find someone whom I could speak to. They all looked very busy as if they were conducting interviews. We finally ran into a publisher we knew and decided to enquire about the seemingly serious atmosphere.

They explained that the London Book Fair was a great opportunity for them to meet potential business partners, and their day consisted mainly of speaking to them and exchanging details.

We learnt that most companies, such as printers or pre-press services, wait and prep for this event all year, and it was during the three days that they are able to meet people in the industry and find as many customers as they possibly could. We’d had this explained in class beforehand, but in the flesh, it suddenly became even clearer why everyone was busy having meetings and interviews.

London Book Fair2014 Image Courtesy of Actualitté, 2014

London Book Fair 2014
Image Courtesy of Actualitté

Unfortunately, most houses seemed to be too busy to spend a long time with, but we found an exception at the Korean stand, where the representatives were very happy to talk with us.

London Book Fair 2014 – Spotlight on Korea

Korea was on everybody’s lips so I was very curious to find out what they were offering. They had electronics at their heart and they were trying to introduce apps and new technologies to British publishers.

99% of their products were only aimed at people who read eBooks. When we asked why, they explained to us that in Korea most people read on tablets and phones (about 80%), and that this has been the case for many years now. Few Korean people read physical books, the main demographic for which is the older generation.

One of the apps they were selling was for both publishers and authors. A reader could download an app related to their favourite author, and then receive regular newsfeeds and information about him or her. It means that on a phone or a tablet, readers could potentially have hundreds of author apps.

I have to admit, I initially expressed my confusion at their presence at the London Book Fair because, in my experience, the market is extremely different in the Europe. Although the eBook market is slowly growing here, it is not really comparable to the Korean market and I’m not yet sure how they will manage to tap the market here and sell their products to British publishers and readers.

It was interesting to have talk with them because they have such a different outlook on publishing.

After Hours Networking

At around 5pm, the atmosphere in Earl’s Court was beginning to change into a more relaxing and chilled environment. The interviews and business meetings were now over, and it was time to toast their newly-made business relationships.

The bigger publishers started taking out boxes of wine and we were offered some. A publisher at one stand even saw my glass of wine as we were walking around and, with envy, begged for one!

She told us that she had been in meetings all day and she was longing for some ‘vino’. I directed her to the nearest stand, giggling. Now was the time I had been waiting for. As most people were no longer in a ‘strictly business’ mood, they were ready to talk and share their experiences.

If you are not going to the London Book Fair for business purposes, like us students, I would definitely advise you stay after 4pm because it is the most relaxing and interesting time of the day. You get the opportunity to speak with publishers without interrupting their business deals, and you can freely ask questions and network.

Overall I had a fantastic experience and I believe it gave me a few ideas for my publishing career. I even went home with a bag full of free literature, which was more than I’d hoped for.

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Christofere is a full-time student on the MA Publishing course (2013/14) and has a keen interest in Twitter and raclette cheese grilling!