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6 tips and tricks for the Children Book fair in Bologna, Italy.

In the past couple of months, we have been busy, buzzing bees, so going on an April trip to the Children’s Book Fair in Bologna was quite a treat. It is a fantastic event for publishers, illustrators, writers and agents. As far as we know, it is the biggest of its kind, featuring incredible work from all over the world. It was our first time attending, but we share with you some tips & tricks based on our experience, so you can go well prepared for the 2020 edition.

Placing some cards on the Illustrator’s wall

1. Take your time with the legendary Illustrator’s wall – It it exactly what it says it is. Several white walls greet you once you enter the fair. They serve as a talent showcase of all attendees. Business cards, posters, cards, stickers and all sorts of creative pop ups are carefully taped to these walls. This year, there was even a box of cookies with a stand number. The urge to post something on the walls is going to be big, so by all means be prepared. Even a business card will do. Plan to spend some time admiring what others came up with in advertising their services, it is worth it.

2. Download the BCBF APP – The next thing you want to do once you enter the fair is take advantage of the free Wi Fi and get on the BCBF’s app. Great for getting around, planning your time and places to visit. Prioritase and plan or go the Italian way, not doing it. 

3. You can skip the lectures – We don’t know, if this is a thing, but at this year’s fair the majority of the lectures were in Italian. Those in English were on quite specific topics (publishing regulations, copyright) that we, as a bunch of graphic designers, didn’t find quite amusing. We were expecting a wider variety of topics, more multidisciplinary oriented talks and more insights on the creative process. If you, like us, came out of pure curiosity to the BCBF you might feel the same.

4. Learn Italian – As we already mentioned, the majority of our party doesn’t speaks Italian. However, the majority of the books at the fair are from Italian publishers. One can still enjoy them but not take in the whole experience. At the same time, this is probably the best spot to physically survey the global children books’ publishing scene.  Booths are generally grouped by country, which makes it easy to get an idea of styles and trends in different parts of the world. Our favourite stands were the Polish, the French and the Taiwanese ones.

5. Make a wish list – If you are a book lover, like ourselves, this is the perfect place to make your wish list. Check all publishing houses and browse through their treasures: Pop up books, books with  an interesting use of materials and binding. However, we were quite disappointed that we can’t buy most of the books right on spot, as usually there are just a few copies for the fair. We have heard that on the last day there is a mark off and you can get these copies, but we didn’t experience it.

6. Have fun! – You are in Italy after all. Bologna is a live, student city with plenty of other events to explore. Have a coffee with cornetto in the morning, Aperol at noon and of gellato. Best gellateria in town is San Stefano gellateria. Period. (try both the salted Turkish pistachio and the classical Italian pistachio).

All this said, we left very inspired, with a way too long book wish lists and maybe a few extra pounds of fat. If you are a professional in this field, this fair will be quite beneficial as it gives you a concise market overview. If you are creative in a different field, BCBF will get you a great supply of ideas, a list of useful contacts and the urge to apply for residency in Italy:).

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