What happens at a book fair?
Book fairs come in all shapes and sizes, attracting a variety of publics and serving different purposes. Most book fairs in developing countries and many major fairs in developed countries are mainly consumer events.
A major function of professional books fairs is to be a market place for trade professionals. Book rights are bought and sold, and agents pitch new titles to publishers. Generally, the people selling book rights at book fairs are located either on publishers’ stands or in a special rights centre, while the buyers move around the fair from meeting to meeting.
Book rights are offered via different models, either on an exclusive basis to the potential buyer, or simultaneously to multiple buyers, or via an auction. Few deals are hatched and signed at book fairs. More frequently, deals are concluded which were already being discussed prior to a fair, or new deals are initiated that are followed up after the event. The book fair is essentially a catalyst which accelerates rights deals towards completion.
A book fair is also an exhibition. Publishing companies as well as firms from the wider publishing industry (eg distributors, technology companies) use fairs as a showcase for their brand and as a shop window for their products and services.
Book fairs serve an important educational purpose for book trade professionals, making them aware of key trends through seminars, panel discussions and presentations. Book fairs also offer a range of events designed to facilitate networking.
Many book fairs are geared towards attracting large numbers of the general public. These fairs represent an important sales and or marketing and communications platform for publishers. Authors participate in public events and visitors are often able to buy books at special discounts.
Some fairs exclusively allow trade attendees, some are designed for the general public, and others are hybrids, often separating their fair into professional and public days. In Frankfurt, for instance, the first three days are trade days while the public attends on the final two days.
London Book fair. Interview.
All book fairs have different characters. For example, LBF is the only major book fair that is exclusively business-to-business, which provides a different atmosphere and impetus for events planning. My advice would be to listen to exhibitors and help them make the most out of their attendance at the fair in terms of networking and profile, and also in exploring the location of the Fair. We have boosted information about events taking place across London throughout the Fair (London Book & Screen Week) so exhibitors can take advantage of visiting one of the world’s greatest capital cities. As with any business, marketing is crucial and needs to be year-round, rather than just focussing on the days of the Fair itself. Social media can bring you closer to your exhibitors and visitors and help you let them know about the events you are organising.