Top Tips from the London Book Fair 

In March, we attended the London Book Fair for the first time. We had no idea what to expect and went in only with the knowledge that we would be immersed in all things books and publishing. It was exciting, overwhelming, fascinating, exhausting, and insightful. We would definitely do it all over again!

Here are our top tips for anyone looking to attend in 2020:  

  1.  Get a map. 
    There are two guarantees at the London Book Fair: that you will unnecessarily end up with five free copies of The Bookseller, and you will get lost. The Kensington Olympia conference centre where it’s held is a sprawling space packed with hundreds of stalls and thousands of people, meaning that it’s virtually impossible to find things by yourself. I highly recommend downloading the LBF app and consulting its online map, and then get another paper map just for good measure. Trust me, you’ll need it. And when the map starts making zero sense, look out for the stewards in sashes wondering around, they’ll be able to point you in the right direction!  

  2. Be prepared to do a lot of walking. 
    Even with an armful of maps and top-class navigation skills, you’re still going to have a do a lot of walking. I recommend flat, comfortable shoes and emergency blister patches, just in case. 

  3. Bring water and lots of snacks. 
    To keep yourself going through the miles of walking, it’s important to remember to bring food and drink. While you can buy things at the fair, the lines are long and the prices are high (I still feel bruised after paying £3 for a cup of tea), so I’d recommend popping down to Tesco beforehand and getting a cheap meal deal for the day. Be prepared to perch on window sills or sit on the floor though because dining seating is very limited!  

  4. Keep an eye on social media. 
    This is the main tip I wish I knew before going to the book fair. The LBF’s Instagram posts highlights from the day on their story, and it’s always worth checking out #LBF on Twitter to see what vendors and attendees are posting. Most importantly, it’s where they post if they’re giving out free books, so keep your eyes peeled. We were refreshing this every minute at the end of the fair then running for our lives to grab the books before they were all gone. (We got three in the end, which isn’t too bad!)  

  5. Talk to people. 
    Over twenty thousand people attend the LBF every year, and all of them are in some way connected with writing and publishing. There aren’t very many opportunities to be completely surrounded by these kinds of people, so take advantage. Try and strike up a conversation with people sat around you at events and seminars, you never know who you might end up connecting with. 

  6. Roughly plan your day.  
    From writing seminars to live podcasts, there’s plenty to do at the LBF. To stop yourself being too overwhelmed, look up the schedule beforehand, find a couple of things you really want to go to, and work your time around that. The app is really useful for this as you can favourite all the ones you’re interested in and keep them saved all in one place. 

  7. Get to events early. 
    Talks and lectures tend to last about an hour, and you don’t want to spend that time cramped in a corner or standing so far at the back you can’t hear the speaker. Try to get there at least ten to twenty minutes early to get a good spot. Your legs will be grateful for that extra rest too!  

  8. Enjoy it. 
    There can be pressure to take in all the events, talk to as many people as possible, and grab every free thing you can get your hands on. Of course you can do all that, but also remember to pause sometimes to take it all in and enjoy being at the book fair. Take an expensive but much needed tea break. Leave half an hour early to read your new book on the commute home. Skip the morning talks and go for breakfast somewhere nice. Don’t burn yourself out before the end!  

by Seren Livie and Hannah Cartwright