A memorable London Book Fair 2016

This year, I attended my second London Book Fair as part of internship with The Publishers Association. I had the most fun and the least sleep I’ve had over the course of any week this year.

My week kicked off on Saturday evening, where anticipation grew at an evening reception at Foyles.

I was up early on Sunday to help at the International Publishers Congress, which took place in the conference centre at Kensington Olympia. I joined the lovely Allison Zink and the London Book Fair team to man the reception desk throughout the day. I was slightly stunned as I handed badges to authors Philip Pullman and Elif Shafak, as well as many other distinguished speakers.

My journey in on Monday was slightly less relaxing, as I joined the hundreds of commuters waiting patiently on the Clapham Junction platform to board the Olympia train. I attended the Quantum 2016 conference, which had an amazing programme, ranging from panels on YA and app development to leadership and marketing. Props to Orna O’Brien for organising the conferences. Particular highlights included Jacks Thomas chairing a panel on leadership featuring Tracey Armstrong, Harriet Minter and Shereen Kreideih, and Baroness Gail Rebuck’s keynote about the book in the digital age.  

Tuesday was the first day of the fair and it was great to see so many students getting involved through internships, The Bookseller, London Book Fair, APE and Book Careers. I attended a discussion on the Mexican Publishing market, before visiting the APE stand to say hello to my lecturers Daniel Boswell and Melanie Ramdarshan Bold. I used up most of my free time in the afternoon getting lost in search of The Faculty; having finally found it, I listened in on Interscript UCL’s panel discussion, ‘Platform Wars’. It proved a well-attended, powerful discussion and it was great to celebrate the achievements of my UCL colleagues.

Having popped in to the SYP’s seminar on How to Get into Publishing, which was awesome, I made it back to The Publishers Association stand. Stopping for a Wiley cake pop on the way, we moved back to the conference centre to prepare for the LBF International Excellence Awards. The atmosphere was made even more excitable by the carefully selected pop tunes, which were played as professionals were honoured for innovation, trailblazing, accessibility and lifetime achievement. On Tuesday evening, The Troubadour was full to the brim for a band made up of renowned literary agents; if anyone gets the chance to see Half on Signature play in future, you’re in for a treat.

On Wednesday, I was left on the UKTI stand to introduce a number of stunning speakers to a Chinese delegation. The Chinese Forum heard from a range of publishing greats including Jo Henry, Lisa Milton, Cortina Butler and Sarah Odedina. Following thsi I attended a seminar on Diversifying the Industry with Joy Francis, Caitlin Doyle and Louisa Bull, which proved there is still much to do to make publishing truly diverse.

In the afternoon, I left LBF aboard a bus with the Japanese delegation. We made it through the traffic nightmare of Piccadilly Circus to reach the London Review of Books, where a lovely man named John answered questions and welcomed the delegation. We then walked to Foyles, Waterstones Piccadilly and Hatchards, welcomed at each by enthusiastic booksellers. I was honoured to receive a bookmark as a gift and am now planning a trip to Japan. (As well as India, Mexico, Iceland, most of the US and all the other countries I have yet to visit.) Wednesday evening was spent catching up with the ever wonderful and inspiring Emma Barnes and David Aldridge.

On Thursday morning, I made an early morning Waterstones run for books, before checking out The Shakesperience at LBF. The mini-Globe Theatre was pretty great. I also saw my UCL colleagues’ ‘Colour the Bard’ wall, featuring some beautiful illustrations, but there was sadly no time for colouring. I headed to Licensing vs Legislation, chaired by Susie Winter of The Publishers Association. Sarah Faulder and others provided a really useful run down of the current state of copyright in the UK and abroad. I was sad to have missed the Charles Clark Memorial Lecture with Professor Michael Fraser, which was highly lauded, so I will be looking for it online.

After a quick bite to eat, I went over to help at the Book Careers Clinic, where Suzanne Collier had gathered myriad HR Managers to speak to eager jobseekers. The room was buzzing all afternoon and I met some lovely fellow volunteers. Thursday ended with a cracking SYP and Bookseller meet-up at The Cumberland Arms organised by the wonderful Maria Vassilopoulos. It was nice to see so many friendly and familiar faces and meet some new ones, too. I should probably have remembered to eat dinner though. To anyone reading, please buy me chips next time.

The week fully affirmed my choice to go into publishing. I gained international market awareness, tote bags and karaoke credentials, and lost all apprehension about meeting my publishing idols. I met a variety of people, all with an unfaltering enthusiasm for ensuring the future of publishing. I would like to thank Seonaid Macleod and Emma House at The Publishers Association for encouraging me to get involved. I look forward to next year, wherever I might be!

To end, I would like to quickly shout out Emma Stokes for starting up Publishing Interns @pubinterns, check it out.

Zoe Sharples is an MA Publishing student at UCL, intern at The Publishers Association and SYP committee member. She is on Twitter @zoesharples.