How Authors Can Benefit From Visiting Book Fairs

April 16, 2012

LondonBookFairHere in the UK, the London Book Fair begins today and continues for the next three days (16th to 18th April).

It is described as a “global marketplace for rights negotiation and the sale and distribution of content across print, audio, TV, film and digital channels. With over 400 seminars and events, 1,500 international exhibiting companies and 24,500 publishing professionals, The London Book Fair encompasses the broad spectrum of the publishing industry.”

It is one of the main book fairs which take place each year for professionals in the book trade alongside Book Expo America, the Frankfurt Book Fair and the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. There are also many smaller yet worthwhile book fairs and exhibitions internationally.

Many authors wonder if it is worth attending these trade fairs and many commentators say that it isn’t. My view is that it can be a valuable experience if you approach it with the right mindset. You also need to plan your visit well in advance and wear sensible shoes in the knowledge that you’ll be on your feet for most of the day!

It is important to be realistic when thinking through a book fair visit, especially if you have a vision of meeting agents and editors to present your book to them. Most publishing professionals will have filled their schedule of 30 minute meetings well in advance of the fair taking place.

Having said that, serendipity can, and does, occur at book fairs.

When I was attending these events as a publisher, I remember well the number of times an author just happened to turn up at our stand when I was in between meetings. On some of those occasions, I did engage in impromptu conversations about new projects, and although it was rare, some of those spontaneous approaches did lead to us to publish the book the author had presented.

If you are considering visiting a book fair this year, here are 3 tips to help you make the most of your experience:

1. Do some research to understand the basics about book fairs, set clear intentions of what you want to achieve, and plan your visit in advance.

These events are primarily for people in the industry and most professionals are there to do business with other trade insiders.

Many agents and large publishers will not be interested in the kind of spontaneous connections I described earlier. In fact, unless you have an appointment, you probably won’t be allowed in to the agent’s area which is cordoned off from the public.

However, there are many possibilities for authors who let go of unrealistic expectations and who concentrate on what is possible.

For example, you can:

  • attend one of the many seminars that are held specifically for authors to help you to get your first book published or advance your career as an established writer.
  • identify publishers you may not have come across before who might be interested in your book and collect catalogues to see what other books and authors are on their list.
  • keep up-to-date generally with the ‘vibe’ in the industry.

2. Prepare appropriate materials to take with you.

Although you can’t count on being able to show your book ideas to agents and publishers, I do recommend that you take some good quality information with you just in case the opportunity does arise.

Here are my suggestions of what you should have with you. If you are writing:

  • non-fiction, take a good book proposal with you plus one or two sample chapters for your book
  • fiction, take a one page and a two page version of your synopsis plus information about you as the author and ideally some marketing ideas
  • an illustrated book, take a summary of the content and author information plus some sample images to show your vision of the book overall.

Make sure that your contact details are included or securely attached to any material you might have the chance to leave with an agent or editor.

3. Remain alert to unexpected opportunities.

Alongside sensible planning, I also recommend keeping your eyes and ears open for spontaneous possibilities cropping up.

You might not be able to get to see the particular agent or publisher you have targeted as being perfect for your book, but you never know who you’ll stand next to in the queue for coffee!

In such a situation, remember the importance of being able to describe your book in one compelling key sentence. That way, the person concerned can quickly make a judgement on whether further discussion is relevant or not.

You’ll also need to be able to speak fluently and with confidence about yourself as the author, including details of your current platform and future plans for developing your profile.

Finally, remain open to all possibilities so that you leave with an abundance of information, resources, contacts and opportunities that will serve you well on your path to successful published authorship – and beyond!

What are your experiences of attending book fairs or thoughts about doing so? Share your comments below.

For more information about the London Book Fair, see


© Julia McCutchen 2012. All Rights Reserved.

If you want to use this article in your ezine or on your website I’d be happy for you to do so as long as you use the complete article, including the copyright line, and include the following paragraph in its entirety:

Julia McCutchen is a writer, conscious creativity coach, intuitive mentor, and the founder & creative director of the International Association of Conscious & Creative Writers (IACCW). A former publisher of books on spiritual and personal development, Julia teaches conscious creativity, conscious writing and a holistic approach to writing for publication that combines the inner journey of creative self-discovery with the practical steps required for writing and publishing books. She is the author of The Writer’s Journey: From Inspiration to Publication. For more information and a FREE Special Report on Discovering Your Authentic Voice – on the page and in the world, visit


  1. Hi, I just wanted to echo your advice on the book fairs, Julia, as I spent much of today at the London Book Fair. Definitely comfy shoes and a planned approach help.

    My intention was just to get a flavour of what’s going on and being published as well as to meet up with existing publishing contacts. It’s also great to see and touch so many beautiful books. What is useful for new authors is to see the plethora of smaller publishing houses in attendance as well as the big names. This year’s fair has a really strong Chinese presence, so that may trigger ideas for anyone interested in this huge market opportunity. The other growth area is in the e-books/ kindle books/mobile apps with various areas devoted to information for authors as well as services to publishers.

    Definitely worth immersing yourself in this world, if only to get a sense of the typical profile of a commissioning editor.

    Comment by Kate Burton — April 16, 2012

  2. Hello,
    I wish I had had this information before the Chicago Fair took place. I was completely overwhelmed, and rather lost in the hugeness of it all. It ended in my being exhausted and not getting much out of the experience, other than wasting my money and catching cold. As for the seminars — a few were great, but most were a bore and useless. By the way, you didn’t mentioned how one gets “an appointment” with a publisher or agent.
    In contrast, I was at the last Kentucky Women Writer’s Conference and found it to be exciting, stimulating, and encouraging. There was a camaraderie, warmth, a concern for the individual, and actual publishers and agents giving seminars full of useful information. We were not “roped out,” or treated as the “crazy writer” who may accost a publisher, but with honest and respectful responses to our questions.

    Comment by B. Wilson — April 16, 2012

  3. Hi Kate, thank you for your contribution. I’m intrigued to know if you did get a sense of the typical profile of a commissioning editor? Many years ago I used to be one, although I probably never have fitted in as “typical”! 🙂

    Comment by julia — April 17, 2012

  4. Hello, yes, overwhelm is common at these events. There is a huge difference between Writer’s Conferences, which are aimed at writers, and Book Fairs, which are aimed at industry professionals. With the right information, writers can make the most of both opportunities for different purposes. Thanx for sharing your experience.

    Comment by julia — April 17, 2012

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