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5 questions for Jacks Thomas, Director of The London Book Fair [INTERVIEW]

Portrait of Ann Bissell of Midas PRJacks Thomas is the Director of The London Book Fair and she will be BookMachine London’s speaker on 27th February. I caught up with her to find out what the new plans are for LBF14 as well as getting a bit of an insight into the running of the fair.

1. What’s new for LBF this year that visitors must make a note to see and do?

Firstly, new dates!  This year’s Fair starts on a Tuesday, rather than starting on a Monday as it has done in recent years, which means our Publishing for Digital Minds Conference will now take place on the Monday before the Fair.

Korea is Market Focus country, so there will be a full programme of professional and cultural events showcasing Korea, and we also have bestselling writer Sun-mi Hwang as our Market Focus Author of the Day. We’re very lucky once again this year as our other Authors of the Day are Terry Pratchett and Malorie Blackman.  I would definitely suggest visitors go to their talks on the PEN Literary Salon.

This year we have a brand new academic theatre located in LBF’s Academic & Scholarly zone called The Faculty @ LBF and LBF’s dedicated area for authors has been expanded and re-launched for 2014 as Author HQ, with a three day events programme for self-published writers to learn more about the industry.  We are also launching Gaming @ LBF, a dedicated space for developers and publishers to connect.

Don’t miss the virtual golf tournament either…more on that anon!

There will be over 250 free-to-attend events in LBF’s “Insights” seminar programme, with a staggering range of topics, I would highly recommend visitors attend some of these sessions.

2. Can you give us a bit more detail on the International Publishing Industry Excellence Awards, and why they fill the gaps that other awarding bodies aren’t fulfilling?

I take your point but the key difference with these awards is that they look out from the UK to the rest of the world.  To win, you will be operating outside the UK.  So these awards fill a gap in that they celebrate international achievement across the whole business of publishing and a truly global view of the book world.  The awards will hopefully be simple, slick and celebratory a fab opportunity for the UK publishing industry to recognise and showcase the achievements of their international publishing industry colleagues.

The awards cover everything from digital innovation, translation and copyright protection, through to trade, academic and children’s publishing.  There are 15 categories, and both companies and individuals are eligible to enter themselves, or put forward a nomination. PLUS! We’re really pleased that broadcaster and author, Gavin Esler has agreed to present the evening.

3. How do you ensure there is a balance between exhibiting companies and publishers that have huge marketing budgets – compared to those who are still integral to the industry, but can’t justify the marketing costs to be there (smaller publishers/service providers)?

We try to balance this by offering a number of exhibitor packages.  For example, we always  have Small Press stands which are  ideal for first time exhibitors or smaller companies to have a ‘taster’ of the fair, we have the start-up zone in Tech Central and with the new-to-show industries such as Gaming, Brand Licensing and Comics Pavilions we have very competitive packages in association with the respective Trades Associations Industry partners.

Altogether, a stand can be pretty much as large or small, fancy or simple as the customer decrees.

4. Over the last few years the scholarly, educational and seminar programme seems to have got a lot bigger. Why do you think this is and do you think exhibition events, like LBF, are expected to provide this as part of the overall offering?

In the K12 arena, technology is increasingly ubiquitous in lecture theatres and the classroom and a number of the most exciting digital innovations are happening in the educational sector.  The boundaries between education and what is entertainment are now much less defined, with new ‘edutainment’ initiatives are being launched every year. These new policies and techniques are debated at the IPA Education Conference; What Works on day 3 of the book fair.

In the academic, professional, STM sectors, we know that change is fast and that these  sectors often lead the way in innovation. We very much wanted to get a dedicated show floor feature going to complement the seminar stream in the conference programme, which is why we’ve launched The Faculty @ LBF. We are absolutely delighted with the feedback we have had and that is in no small part due to the partnerships we have with ALPSP and the PA.

5. Once all the hard work is done for 2014, what will you be doing during the book fair itself?  Do you get to participate as an observer, or are you running around on call?

Hopefully – enjoy it!  I always refer to the way it evolves once we are at Earls Court as watching a small village being built. I love seeing behind the scenes. As to what I will be doing, I very much hope to get to the Great Debate, the Faculty, The Children’s Hub, The Digital Theatres, The Bic Bar, at least a dozen of the 240 seminars and, of course, the IPA Education Conference, our new London Writers’ Fair on the Friday and kicking off the week with the Publishing for Digital Minds Conference.  In between all that I will look forward to the Korea Market Focus Pavilion Opening Ceremony, meeting our authors of the day, and getting to talk to our exhibitors and visitors. Hopefully I will also get time to buy guests the occasional drink or two at the Club at the Ivy Pop-Up, which is back for its second year. All of this should help me to prepare for The London Book Fair 2015 which – in case you missed it – is at OLYMPIA!

If you want to hear more from Jacks make sure you’ve booked your BookMachine London ticket!

 


Sophie O’Rourke

Sophie O’Rourke works at emc design, a leading print & digital design agency for publishing. She is interested in how education is being transformed by new technologies, the web and social media. You can find her writing for emc design’s blog (emcdesign.org.uk), on Twitter @sophie_orourke or at the next Book Machine social!

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