My experience attending the London Book Fair 2023

Northumbria University’s Publishing MA students had the chance to visit London Book Fair on 19 April. Student Sophie Ince tells us about her experience.

Hey, my name is Sophie. I am currently a Masters student at Northumbria University, working towards my degree in publishing. It’s a brand new degree that is in collaboration with New Writing North and Hachette UK, one of the big five publishers in the UK.

A little bit about me? I’ve always had interest in the literary scene and love everything about books, so much so that I began to grow curious about how the stories we come to love and cherish are actually made and put out into the world. I suppose this led me to develop an overall interest in the publishing sector.

One of the highlights of my studies, and I am sure my classmates would agree, has got to be our recent trip down to the London Book Fair. Travel and accommodation costs were covered by the university, and we set off from Newcastle to London on 19 April 2023. As soon as we all arrived, we quickly navigated that tricky tube route to the Olympia, where the book fair was taking place.

In case you didn’t know, the London Book Fair is one of the largest annual book fairs in the world. It is an opportunity for publishers from all over the globe to meet with one another in order to negotiate sales and rights deals. It’s not all just about the business meetings though, as a variety of seminar programmes run throughout the day, which offer some thoughtful insight and commentary on relevant issues that are impacting the publishing industry as a whole. You also don’t have to be an industry professional yourself, anybody who is interested or wants to break into the publishing sector can register to attend.

When we first walked through those doors, it was like nothing I had ever seen before. The venue was enormous, and was packed with stalls from publishing houses all over the world. All sorts of publishers were in attendance, ranging from fiction to the education sector. My favourite section though had to be the children’s exhibit, which was located on the second floor (those illustrations on their covers are too cute to resist!). The staff who were running the individual stalls often had important business meetings that took up most of their day, so they were pretty busy. However, those that did have five minutes to spare were more than happy to talk with us and answer any questions that we had. They also gave out lots of freebies, which was a huge bonus!

We did many activities throughout the day, including attended some of the seminars that were running which we all found to be very thought provoking. Some of us even tried a little bit of networking! We were also invited to meet with staff at the Hachette stand, where they offered us a little more insight into their roles here at the book fair. It was lovely to finally meet some of them in person, as part of our MA has been carrying out virtual internships with them.

However, the highlight of the entire day had to definitely have been the award ceremony at the end of the day. Klaus Flugge, known for his spectacular work in children’s publishing, was granted the Lifetime Achievement Award. It dawned on me, as all his colleagues (as well as our group) had all gathered to celebrate his wonderful achievement, that the industry is so close knit. The publishing industry unites so many people from across the world, and it truly is something that is just so special.

It also made me realise just how truly grateful I was for this experience. As somebody who grew up in a small town in Northumberland, I would never have thought that I would have ever been able to attend such a prestigious event. Barriers are slowly being broken, and hopefully more people like me will have the opportunity to attend these events in the future. I can honestly say this event has truly motivated me to work harder in order to achieve my goal in entering the publishing industry!