Tuesday 4 April 2006

BOLOGNA 2006!!! What was it all about?

Unpublished writers wandering around the Bologna Children's Book Fair will be hard pressed to make sense of it all. Why were all those people sitting around tables? Who were they? What did it mean? How is this supposed to help me get published?

Well, for one, it was humbling to see all of children's publishing in one vast space. This is the universe you aspire to join. Oh how insignificant one feels.

Later, things became clearer as publishing reports about the fair emerged. Publishing News Children's Editor Graham Marks, himself an author (Zoo, Tokyo) reported a megadeal for Finding the Summer Queen by Melissa Marr, about a teenage girl who can see faeries walking amon humans - not so much fantasy as "chick-lit for goth girls" according to Michael Stearns of HarperCollins US. "A 12 to 13+ Tim Burtonesque novel of urban faeries - supernatural romances seem to be the coming thing," Stearns' UK counterpart, Gillie Russell told Publishing News.

The other big news was Whitbread and Carnegie winner David Almond (Skellig, Clay) signing to do two picture books for Walker plus a novel for younger children.

The author Scott Westerfield (Uglies, Pretties, So Yesterday) travelled from Australia to speak at the pre-Bologna conference and then spent the week at the fair. Here was what he wrote in his blog:

It was a great week. I love hanging out with book people, who are smart and dedicated and interested in the world. Surrounded by 8,000 experts, these are the things I learned about children publishing:

- The history, economics, and mechanics of pop-up books is endlessly fascinating.
- Sweden likes hardbacks; Brazil prefers trade paperbacks.
- Translators in France earn 8-10 cents per word (US cents), plus 1% royalties.
- The children’s picture book market tanked about ten years ago.
- Scouts are like reverse agents: matchmakers, but paid by publishers instead of authors.
- Gossip Girl, the successful teen series, is published in 29 territories.
- The Italian kids/YA market is 75% books in translation.
- The Dutch throw the best parties

Scott's wife, author Justine Larbalestier (Magic Lessons) took up the report in her own blog:
But you all want to know about the book fair, right? It’s totally geared to business. Unlike Book Expo America where you’re overwhelmed by how many books there are—and more particularly how many free books there are—at Bologna I was overwhelmed by how many meetings were going on. Every single stall, no matter how small, was set up with lots of desks, at every single one two people sat across from each other earnestly waving books around, consulting their notes, doing everything they could to sell and/or buy rights to books.

It’s very very intense. I now feel like I know more about the business than ever before. I finally understand what it is that scouts do and how they’re paid! It’s amazing how many middle men there are out there. I also learned all about how they make pop-up books—it takes a whole village in China. I learned that the publishing wisdom that short story collections don’t sell holds everywhere, that everyone—even the French—reckon that French YA books are too preachy and boring, that hardbacks are big in Sweden and non-existent in Brazil. I am dizzy with everything I have learnt!

There were hardly any other authors. I met one the whole time I was there. (Hello, Isobel!) There’s not a lot for us to do at the Fair except be taken out by our publishers and agents.

Not being published, I didn't have anybody to take me out, but it was a good education in the ways of the world I wish to join.

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