So. My first day of The London Book Fair, 2013.

Back when I was preparing for the fair, I learned that Neil Gaiman was going to be present. I was overjoyed.

Then I learned he was only going to be present at the Digital Minds conference on the 14th, rather than the three days that the main fair would take place – and that the cost to attend said conference was £359.

To which I said accordingly, and probably for the first time ever, FML.

Even though I was not to see Neil Gaiman, sob sob, the first day of the London Book Fair was still very enjoyable and informative. Here follows a roster of the day:

10.36: Arrive at the Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre. Cut up my printed out entry pass in order to fit it into a badge holder. This latter action takes quite a while.

10.45: Nip into one of the main exhibition rooms to take stock. There are many, many people. Nip out again and hyperventilate a bit, though not before picking up a schedule of the day’s events and a map.

10.50: Examine the schedule, and circle the seminars I’ve chosen the night before as the ones I most want to attend. Wonder where on earth all the rooms said seminars will be taking place in are.

10.55: Work out roughly where the room my first seminar will be taking place in is. ‘Roughly’ being the word here.

11.00: Rachael, dear chum of mine, arrives, and we go to print out her entry pass.

11.00 – 11.20: We wander around the main exhibition rooms feeling very awestruck by all the bright colours and big names. Everyone seems to know what they’re supposed to be doing except me.

(Incidental entry; 11.10: Walk past a stall that boasts books with 3D holographic sex displays Fascinating.)

11.20: Rachael and I part ways for the time being, as she peruses the stalls and I head to the Westminster Room for:

11.30 – 12.30: From Books to Film: Does Fidelity Matter?

This was a very interesting seminar, in which the speakers, such as Deborah Cartmell, talked about how much control authors should have over the content of their work, and how far they should be involved in the process of making films based on said work. They talked about the phenomenally successful Life of Pi, a book that was considered unfilmable for a long time, and how the book’s author acknowledged the importance of the author letting go of their work in order to let the director create their own interpretation of the story. 

There was also a lengthy discussion about the different adaptations of Jane Austen, particularly Pride and Prejudice, and what the different interpretations can suggest about the periods they were made in.

Probably the part of the talk I found most interesting was the section by Bee Rowlatt, about her own experiences with having her work adapted – such as Talking About Jane Austen in Baghdad – and how ill prepared she was for it, insistent about how things so go in the development process, acknowledging now that she should have stayed out of the way. She suggested that, one the amanuscript if out of your hands, you need to begin distancing yourself from it. She also emphasized the importance of radio, which I appreciated.

Fidelity to the original content, in the end, was sometimes important, sometimes not, but in adaptation there’s everything to be gained.

12.30 – 13.20: Desperately try to find Rachael. This is a big building. Find Rachael at last. We meet up with Hazel, a brilliant lady, and go outside to bask in this strange new thing called sunshine, trying to gain some important vitamin D and freckles, and eat lunch.

13.20: Back into the building and to the Conference Centre rooms, in order to attend:

13.30 – 14.30: How to Get into Publishing

A very useful experience, informative and yet friendly. The speakers – Neil Morrison, Samantha Rayner, Sophia Blackwell (no relation, as she was quick to point out) and Jessica Leeke – were all perfectly candid about the fact that publishing is a tricky and difficult business, but also supportive and encouraging. They gave their audience plenty of useful tips and advice when it came to applications, CVs and transferable skills; Rayner, in particular, provided valuable information about the opportunities that an MA in publishing could bring. 

It was great to hear these speakers – and the ones who came in the seminar afterwards, How to Get Ahead in Publishing, 14.45 -15.45, Neil Morrison again, Alistair Horn, Eric Huang and Harriet Ash – talk about their various careers that led to their getting involved in the book trade, reassuring me that there’s hope for me after all. One speaker’s back story boasted a PHD on novels about novelists and working in a glue factory, while another career spanned studying paleontology to working as a receptionist in Hollywood, to working for the Disney company, to Melbourne Australia, to Bath, to London. I can only hope to have a journey through life like that.

These seminars in particular really made my day. I learned so much from them, and enjoyed them so much as well; all the speakers made their ten minute talks informative and well worth listening to.

13.45 – 16.00: We try desperately to find the Old Press Room, which finally turns out to be on the same floor as the Westminster Room. We squeeze in and manage to find space in a rather crowded (and hot) room, where everyone is waiting avidly to hear:

16.00 – 17.00: New Adults, Steamies, Crossed Genres – Reinventing Teen Fiction

I have a confession to make; I thought ‘steamies’ referred to steampunk. Instead, it referred to get rather hot under the collar – as a good deal of us were doing, though from the heat of the room rather than the content of the seminar – at the new wave of ‘Young Adult’ novels that are rather more adult than they might have been before Fifty Shades of Grey, to satisfy the older audience as well as the teenage one.

We got to hear extracts from the works of Abbi Glines – The Vincent Boys and The Vincent Brothers – and Liz Bankes – Irresistible – who’ve done marvelously in self-publishing their works and have now gotten picked up by publishing houses. Brenda Gardner and Ingrid Selberg also joined in the discussion of the importance of this new genre. They discussed the reception of such work in the USA as opposed to the UK – Glines said her work rather rocked the boat! – and the distinction of this second coming of age, writing about characters who’re of an age to go to university and discover new lives for themselves.

Something very interesting came up; these are books that allow girls to read about and experience lust, not just love. Appropriately, the readership of these books is predominantly female. This is also quite an American phenomenon  something Bankes hopes to change with her novels set in England.

There was also discussion about the problems of where to shelve this new genre – in the Young Adult section? In the Adult section? – and the restrictions and limitations when it comes to deciding what to put on the covers. Publishers need to take supermarket promotions – such an important part of their revenue – into account, so there are no clasping couples or shirts being unbuttoned, only covers that copy Fifty Shades, including sunglasses and a suggestive cow boy hat. These covers, it was suggested, are why this new genre, including Fifty Shades, have become so popular – with such quiet and restrained covers, their audience need no longer be ashamed of them, or of reading them on public transport.

In the end, before we were set free, the question was asked: is New Adult a marketing ploying to sell books, or is it around to stay? The unanimous answer from the panel was; both. Nice and succinct.

17.00: Bid farewell to Rachael and Hazel, and set off to get home and prepare for the next day of the fair.

All in all, a excellent first day. I learned a good deal, listened to some interesting debates and made some great contacts. Bring on tomorrow!


2 Comments Add yours

  1. lemonmachine says:

    Sounds fun, wish I could have gone. Good luck tomorrow 🙂

    1. It was great, but also a bit scary! I might not stay so long today; not sure yet…

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