What I learned at the London Book Fair

  1. Try not to take heavy luggage with you. Cloak rooms are few and far between, often with long queues and small fees for the service. If you are able to, leave all of your luggage at your accommodation.
  2. Wear sensible shoes. This may seem like an insignificant piece of very cliché advice, but it makes a huge difference. After three days of wearing ankle boots which I thought were professional looking, my feet were so sore that I was walking extremely slowly, a difficult predicament to be in when seminars are tightly scheduled yet often extremely far away from each other.
  3. Take lunch with you. The queues are tragically long and the prices are extortionate. It will save you time and the pain of handing over most of your cash.
  4. Use the maps provided. Really. As a very proud and stubborn individual, I assumed that I would pretty much figure out the layout on my own. I was wrong. Save yourself a lot of time and grab one of the fold out maps.
  5. ATTEND SEMINARS. It is extremely surprising how few people actually attend the seminars which are on offer at the event. From engaging YA readers to the impact of the Ebook, the seminars are hugely beneficial and have a large range of content. Among the most popular talks were “How To Get Into Publishing”, “Creativity, The Internet, and Politics” and “Journalism and It’s Dangers”. I attended both “How To Get Into Publishing” and “Successful Social Media Strategies”, and I am so glad that I did. Not only were the talks concise and eye-opening, but the speakers were bluntly honest and willing to answer as many weird and wonderful questions that time allowed. Furthermore, the speakers for both provided clear advice along with the emails of professionals to send any enquiries to, useful websites and beneficial groups to join.
  6. Make the most of their slightly stranger events. For example, my colleague and I managed to grab a spare spot in “Publicist Speed-Dating“, where we had ten minute meetings with different publicists, where we could pitch event ideas and get advice on how to improve our relationship with these individual publishers.
  7. Ask for proofs. Obviously, do not be too pushy, as this could give you or your company a bad reputation. However, if the reps at the stall seem friendly enough, the worst they can do is say no. If they do reject the idea, bow out gracefully and thank them for their time.
  8. Do NOT lie, exaggerate or keep quiet about your position in your company or who you work for, and try to always explain your position when you first introduce yourself. My colleague and I were the subjects of poor miscommunication, with many people that got in touch with us after the event thinking that we were much more influential than we actually are (FYI, not at all). How this occurred, we are still unsure. We had badges which shouted our positions and where we were based, but it seems as if many people simply notice which company you work for, not what you do for them. Perhaps this is because those that run the stalls simply aren’t used to dealing with anyone so low down in a company, and therefore assume a certain status upon anybody there, but we mere booksellers were mistaken time and time again for regional buyers. The resulting emails are, at best, extremely awkward. Introduce yourself with a good handshake, your name, your company and your position within that company. Explain what you are doing at the LBF to begin with, and hopefully no misunderstandings can arise.
  9. Introduce yourself to other attendees. By approaching others who are also interested in the same seminars, you could well be making very useful contacts for the future. Swap emails or even phone numbers with anyone who seems friendly and wiling to help, you never know when they may come in handy.
  10. The main thing that I took away from the 2015 LBF was this: MAKE BUSINESS CARDS. – No matter how unimportant you think you may seem compared to everybody else attending the fair, not having a business card to leave with those you speak to will immediately put them off. It makes you seem unprofessional and gives the impression that you are not fully dedicated to the networking you are doing. Give business cards to as many people as possible and vice versa,  you never know when they may get in touch or when you may need to email them for advice.

The most important point of all is: GO.

If you have the slightest interest in the publishing industry and you are able to attend, do it. Even if you do not manage to get a space at one of the strange networking events, or if you miss that particular seminar you so wanted to hear, it will still be beneficial. On my first day I only made it to one seminar and I was too shy to approach many people, but at the end of that day I still realised how lucky I was to be there, because you learn a lot simply by walking around the event. You will see strangely formatted books in a number of different stalls, and realise that they may be the next big thing. You will hear what the publishers are focusing on, so that you are aware of the newest trends and focuses throughout the industry.

You will meet people from similar or shockingly different backgrounds, you will gain good connections even if you do not realise it at the time, but most of all, you will enjoy it. If you are passionate about the field, you will never forget it.


“What do stars do? They shine.”

Stardust: A novel written by the infamous Neil Gaiman, and a popular feature film.

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I will start off by saying that I fell in love with this book very early on. To be honest, I think that I fell in love with it from Page One, in an utterly cliché way. When I say that I fell in love with the novel, I mean just that. It was not a simple case of really enjoying the tale, but I fell in love with it in the same way that you fall in love with a fellow person. I wanted to tell everyone that I knew about the book, I wanted so desperately to tell the author how much I was enjoying it and, above all else, I never wanted it to end.

Consciously stopping myself from reading onwards in fear of finishing the book too soon, I would force myself to not read even when circumstances called for it. A long train journey for work- I would read for a short time and then end abruptly, frightened that I was hurrying through it all too quickly, in the same way in which you might be frightened of seeming needy towards a loved one.

I had adored the film Stardust, and on realising that it was based on a novel I knew that I had to read it. As is so often the case, the book and film versions differ in a variety of ways, but I found that in this case the majority of the book was represented well in the film. The beauty of Gaiman’s writing style is that it is often short and to the point, which makes for fast-paced plots and extremely quick reading. It also means that, while the tale is so complex that it could easily span a novel of epic proportions, major events are often portrayed in a few pages, sometimes even a single paragraph. This makes it very easy for it to be translated onto film- The main complaint surrounding movie adaptations of novels is that they often miss out the finer details of the story, but in Gaiman’s case that simply can’t happen- his story is already simple, charmingly so.

There was, however, one major point which the film failed to do justice to. From your very first introduction to Yvaine, the Fallen Star, you see that she is actually a very funny character. The film gave the impression that she was gentle, scared and above all, ladylike. Not so.

Fuck is the first word that she utters in the novel, with perfect comic timing. Yvaine continues throughout the book to be surprisingly witty, sarcastic, intelligent and, in a sense, independent. Gaiman has somehow managed to write an extremely relatable and down-to-earth character in his Fallen Star, which is no mean feat.

Not only is Yvaine a good source of humour, but the book itself is filled with wit that made me smile and chuckle throughout. On a number of occasions there are coincidences that occur in brilliant comic timing, making the book a fabulously daft read. Tristran himself is a lovable fool. Slightly dim-witted but filled with vim and vigour, you can’t help but cringe as he tends to get the Oh so wrong end of the stick. He tries throughout, he really does, and you certainly get drawn into hoping things work out perfectly for him.

Tristran is almost always missing the point, and any courageous deed he manages to stumble into really are the results of sheer luck and brilliantly suave writing on Gaiman’s part. Does this make Tristran a bad protagonist? No. It makes him totally and utterly relatable. He is just another normal teenager, hopelessly in love and made all the dimmer for it, constantly only hearing parts of the conversation which match what he wanted to hear.

This novel is a whirlwind of events. It jumps from scenes with the brothers of the Kingdom of Stormhold, which are filled with morbid dark humour, to images of the Witch Queen that are genuinely often quite tense. In between is follows Tristran and Yvaine’s progress, which tunes into the hopeless romantics inside us all (I admit I may be more susceptible to cheesy romantic storylines than most).

My main disappointment came when the book seemed to arrive at a very abrupt ending. The tale itself incorporated so many characters, so many secondary storylines and so much drama that it could have been drawn out into a truly vast novel, but I felt as if Gaiman had suddenly decided that he had said all that he wished to say on the matter. The ties at the end of the story were tied up too neatly, and it all happened so quickly that his punchy, coincidental writing style no longer seemed endearing, but frustrating.

Stardust shows that Gaiman has a truly active imagination and the creative flair to put his thoughts into writing, but I feel a little cheated. This marvellous, wondrous story that so completely captivated me from the beginning was a short one, where it could have been something utterly grand.

That said, even though it finished far too quickly for my liking, it now has a very special place in my heart. Not only was it a story that seemed as if it was written for me personally, as the writing style was so perfect to me, but it was also filled with pearls of wisdom that gave the impression of something rather important. I got the feeling while reading this, as I often have with Gaiman’s novels, that he is in on some secret that most of us are aware of but haven’t quite grasped. His stories scream “This is what life is all about!”. We are often told that life is about love, about human bonds, about kindness and about adventure. But Gaiman puts this point across in a way which is playfully subtle and yet staggeringly obvious at the same time.

One of the lines I adore is when Tristran sends a note to his mother saying:

 “Have been unavoidably detained by the world. Expect us when you see us.”

There is it. That brazen joie de vivre that is so common in Gaiman’s writing. It seems to say “You, reader, should be out there also getting detained by the world”, or at least that is how it appears to me. It could be my own wanderlust, it could be Gaiman seeking to inspire, or it could just be unwittingly strong writing. Either way it sums up quite perfectly a certain outlook on life, one which I would very much like to be a part of.


To blog or not to blog- that was the question

Blogging. That activity which suddenly soared in popularity over the past years. That activity which many, albeit only the most daring of us, embraced early on with flair and aplomb. That activity which involves being honest and expressive, which truth be told absolutely goes against the inherent Britishness of many of us.

Blogging. An online journal.

I was under the impression that blogs were only for the attention seekers amongst us. I was also under the impression that blogging often meant having to talk about your personal life, having to open up to the whole world. I did not take to this idea.

I have mulled the idea of blogging over in my mind for many a year, wondering what on earth I could blog about that would be of interest to anyone.

A close friend of mine recently joked that I should bore somebody else with my book reviews, because she was tired of listening to them all.

Well, why the hell not.