LBF 2016: Tips and Advice

Publishing Ireland Guide to London Book Fair



Publishing Ireland at LBF

Publishing Ireland will have a table at this year’s fair (as well as Frankfurt 2016). There are still meeting slots available so do get in touch if you would like to come along last minute and we will see if we can accommodate you.

Olympia Kennsington

This year’s London Book Fair will remain at the Olympia, Kennsington. The venue is smaller and harder to access than its predecessor so it’s a good idea to plan your trip well in advance of getting there. The LBF website provides a good resource in terms of travel and accommodation (with visitor and exhibitor rates so book early!). Publishing Ireland has put together a comprehensive guide to making the most out of your book fair experience:

Why go to The London Book Fair?

  •  to meet with buyers: booksellers, librarians, international publishers, overseas distributors, rights agents and publishing service providers, printers, photographic archives, etc.
  • The LBF has become particularly strong in terms of international rights sales
  •  also see what others are doing – might inspire ideas
  •  essential to consider what you want to achieve


Who do I want to sell copies of my books to?

*Key questions are: who do I need to see to do this:

  • buyers for chain bookshops?
  • wholesalers?
  •  bookclubs?

Do I need to find an (overseas) distributor?

  •  enough titles of interest to buyers in that territory to persuade a distributor?
  • books priced at the right level for that market?
  • can I make money?
  • will it help my print run to have a small additional export sale?
  •  can I cope with the work?


If the answer is YES:

  •  put together good information
  •  look at pricing strategy
  •  research potential contacts
  •  get in touch with them as early as possible before the Book Fair

Should I sell rights to my titles? Is this more desirable than hard copy sales?

*Key questions are:

  •  does your author contract grant you the overseas rights?
  • is there real potential overseas?
  •  is there support for translation?
  • have you researched the key issues in selling rights?


If the answer is YES:

  • present good quality information on the title
  • pitch the AI to your potential market
  • localise/contextualise the information to the target market

(eg ‘The new Stieg Larsson’ / ‘Part Tin Tin and part Harry Potter’)

  •  potential contacts? Get in touch ASAP!



Planning for the Fair 

Do your research…

Internet! Extensive LBF website listing the exhibitors who in turn have their website listed. Tedious and time consuming but a key resource! LBF also has a great app which is free to download- a must if you are on the move a lot throughout the day.


Get in the loop…

  •  newsletters via the Book Fair websites
  • trade magazine (The Bookseller run features on fairs)
  •  join the London Book Fair LinkedIn Group
  • make sure you are listed (correctly)


Start planning as soon as you have decided to go!


  •  focus – what are your key objectives? What new relationships and clients do you hope to forge?
  • research – what you are doing now! But also use the Fair website to check if there are specific talks/events to attend
  • look at the profile of overseas publishers

Travel / Accommodation…

  •  ask someone who has already been there
  •  friends in reasonable commuting distance?
  •  advice on hotels/accommodation from the Ireland stand

Making Appointments – the most important thing you do!

  •  keep a schedule: (Excel) just keep it bang-up-to-date – time/date, correct name of contact, meeting location/stand number
  •  basic email approach: explain who you are, that you are attending the fair on specific day(s) and would like to meet. Include your auto-signature and your website
  • confirm appointments in writing the week before and keep a hard copy
  • those selling rights usually have meetings at their stands, but if you are not established you may need to carry all your material to the other person’s booth
  •  notes: prepare for meetings when making the appointments – list any previous business and key discussion points next to the appointment’s name/title
  •  word doc for each meeting (1 page) with text boxes for key notes
  • update these notes after each meeting, while the discussion is still fresh in your mind


  •  block out time: clear your schedule for any lectures/events you’re attending
  •  first appointment: work out when you’ll arrive at the Fair, give yourself time to get sorted
  •  duration: each meeting lasts 25–30 minutes
  • gaps: allow at least a few of these to pick up appointments from people who drop by or have tracked you down
  •  block out some time in advance for scouting and seeing other stands
  •  breaks: make sure you have time to eat during the day, and always a bottle of water to hand


  • if you have or are seeking sub-agents it is better to meet them on the first day to gain additional promotion force
  • new contacts: Look through fair directories and Publishers’ Lunch, talk to scouts, walk around the Fair
  •  ask agents before the fair to recommend editors etc. you should see
  •  make new contacts at each fair – different countries have stands and have parties! Maybe publishers in the territories where you don’t have sub-agents?
  • receiving requests – quiz people about what they want to discuss, if they are buying or selling rights etc. You don’t have to say yes!

The International Rights Centre

This is mainly used by literary agents who stay there all day. If you want to meet with someone there, you must make an appointment – no drop-in really works. Look up agents in advance to make appointments. Some publishers have tables there – it’s a less expensive alternative to taking a stand, but you can’t display books.

How to Make the Most of Your Time at The Fair

Orientation, do your research before you go – fair brochures, publishers’ websites and info, know where you are going, where it is and how to get there from your hotel. If possible, get there a day early to make sure everything is arranged before you begin your meetings. The Fair in  is taking place at the Olympia which is a smaller venue, however it is very well served by public transport:


Olympia London has a dedicated rail station – Kensington (Olympia) which is served by London Overground and national rail networks. Note that the district line from Kensington (Olympia) will NOT be running during the Fair. However, a further five underground lines are connected only a short walk away.


Overground: Kensington (Olympia) is on the London Overground network; one stop away from Shepherd’s Bush (Central Line) or West Brompton (District Line)

Piccadilly Line: Hammersmith station is a 15 minute walk away.


Hammersmith & City Line: Hammersmith station is a 5 minute bus ride or 15 minute walk away


Circle Line: Hammersmith station is a 5 minute bus ride or 15 minute walk away. High Street Kensington is a 4 minute bus ride or 12 minute walk away.


Appointments – talking the talk…

Courtesy – offer a seat, some water or coffee, give them time to settle before launching into a pitch. Don’t waffle, and let them talk too.

Use your research, check your appointment notes – key issues to discuss?

Research publisher websites before the fair. Relate your titles to titles they have already published.

Watch out for fiction buyers if you only publish non-fiction and vice versa.

Keep notes for each appointment listing what each publisher is currently considering, if they had bought from you in the past and how much they had paid.

Take a list of recent rights deals to see what figures have sold in each territory just in case you get an on the spot offer and need to do some quick calculations. The fact that rights have been sold in other territories (and to which publishers) can be a key determinent in whether a foreign publisher will want to consider your title. Also, international rights sales of other titles by the same author (whether published by you or not) are highly relevant.

Take notes – have a notebook and pen (spare pens!) to make notes from your meeting. Keep business cards, in the back of the book and write duplicates of all notes. Staple their business card into the notebook, add the titles they were interested.

Make use of every contact – even if their particular area is quite specialist ask them to let you know who to contact in their company regarding the other categories you are presenting. Background info on them/their company, make an action list of what you’ve agreed to send them or that they have agreed to send you.


  • research: make time to walk about and see who and what the Fair is about
  • chance meetings: Some of the best meetings you’ll have are bumping into people, or wandering by a stand and seeing someone that proves to be a useful contact in the future
  •  get an overview (also for future fairs)
  •  pick up an appointment: wandering around will allow you to set up a meeting with a contact you’ve just discovered, having had the chance to check out their booth/catalogues 

Preparation: Your ‘Fair Pack’

 You also need to think about what you will present or discuss….

Most important – Rights List

  •  even if you lose everything else your rights list will enable you to have constructive meetings. Ideally, new catalogue immediately prior to a Book Fair
  • advantage of a rights list: You can leave out books which will not sell overseas
  •  keep the copy in the rights list shorter than your usual catalogue copy, specify what territories you control and what is already sold
  •  include a section at the back for titles which have already been published but which have sold well overseas
  •  don’t take the same books to every Fair
  • email the rights list to your agents ten days before the Fair to give them time to query anything with you

Rights Folder

A rights folder is a means of illustrating the titles you are presenting: eg jacket on the left hand page and AIs on the right hand side. Include giveaway AIs. Or make a colour brochure of a few key titles.

Daily Notes Folder

Make up folders of A4 for each day, with a page of notes for each publisher you are meeting, recent submissions and details of their latest titles gleaned from their website.


If you are on the Publishing Ireland stand, you will have space to display your books and will get passing trade. Illustrate your strengths, so display the books which you think will sell well internationally.


Practical Tips

  •  speak slowly and clearly, (esp. to people working through a translator)
  • keep copy of schedule (give a copy to Publishing Ireland desk, on the stand)
  • back-ups to replace disappeared material. If you have a laptop, take a pack electronically as backup
  • be ruthless with catalogues – tear out what you really need
  •  parties – go to them, you get a great chance to meet new people


  • get a good night’s sleep before you fly out to the Fair
  • don’t forget your passport and your Fair pass
  • tank up on vitamin C before you go, carry cold and throat remedies
  •  comfortable shoes- cannot emphasize this enough
  •  bottle of water
  •  a constant stream of snacks … vital if you can’t stop for lunch

And DON’T throw away your Fair Catalogue – use it to plan your Fair the following year…


Follow Up: The most important part of the Fair!

After the Book fair, do follow up all meetings, however tentative, as they may come back next time. Also be prepared for long negotiations as your contact passes the idea around his or her company. It gets easier as they get to know your list, especially once they’ve had some success with it.

  • be prompt and organised so that you make the most of the meeting
  •  follow-up should acknowledge the discussion that you had, any action points agreed or material you promised to send, or requested (confirm if you are sending, how you have sent it – either sent by post or attached as a pdf)
  • if you missed an appointment and couldn’t pick it up, write and apologise, pick up any discussion points you wanted to bring up
  •  timing – most people are swamped by information when they return from a Fair, especially those buying rights. Make your follow-up clear, helpful and short
  •  stipulate deadlines, competitive bidding situations, publication dates
  • report – if you need to circulate a report about the Fair do it immediately. Otherwise you’ll never do it!
  • you’ve nipped off for a coffee. Please consider sharing interesting information – it will encourage others to share theirs too!