It’s London Book Fair! A daunting prospect for rookies starting out… Bookollective co-founder Esther Harris remembers Day 1 of her first Fair as a new writer.
7:00 a.m.: Carefully lay out my LBF wardrobe: distressed jeans, heels and blazer. I’m-too-cool to-pitch-however-if-you-happen-to-be-the-editor-of my-dreams-vibe? Check. Hot stationery? Check. Copy of MS (just in case)? Check.
8:00 a.m.: Board the shuttle bus at West Ken with lots of bearded men and women in thin knit cardigans. No pushing in the queue and lots of smiles and air kissing. People in publishing very nice.
9:00 a.m.: Olympia at last. It’s HUGE. Panic. Get coffee and a cinnamon roll to calm nerves. Copy other people by standing and adopting a just-having-a-mid-book-deal-sugar-hit look.
9:30 a.m.: Feet killing me already. Flats next year.
10:00 a.m.: Pass Author HQ set up for new writers. Lots of similarly wide-eyed people pumped for a seminar on ‘Using disruption to increase discoverability’. Not exactly sure what it all meant but the speakers were very passionate and I got to doodle in my flash new notebook. All good.
11:00 a.m.: The ground floor of the main hall is where publishing goes Hollywood. It is where all the BIG houses have their stands. Larger than most London flats, raised several feet off the ground and lit up like a TV studio, they are Something Else. Lots of meetings. Lots of Mariella Frostrup types flicking through lists and talk in hushed, literary tones. I feel weak with longing.
12 noon: Go for lunch. Spend £15 on a halloumi salad and bottle of water.
2:00 p.m.: Finally screw up the courage to approach the Bonnier Zaffre desk. “Do you have an agent or is your manuscript unsolicited?” a kind receptionist asks. I whisper that it’s the latter and am steered to the submission details on their website.
2:30 p.m.: Get an Indian Head Massage from a guy giving them out in the main hall. He’s a graphic novelist. He has an agent. He said he felt tension in my neck.
3:00 p.m.: Finally… my raison d’être. An actual meeting with a nice editor I’ve been emailing. She gently explains they won’t be moving forward with my story. Crying inside but offer to do lattes my treat again next year. Tweet the F. Scott Fitzgerald quote about how he had 122 rejections before he sold a story and never give up.
4:00 p.m.: Life dreams in tatters. Weep in toilets. Momentarily give up.
6:00 p.m.: Get tipsy on warm white wine at a bloggers after-party. End up barefoot and disillusioned with publishing. Someone invites me to join a cult. Snap back: “We ARE in a cult…” Then have a light bulb moment. New story! Renewed faith in writing. Going back tomorrow. Next challenge – the Agents’ Floor #loveLBF