Lisa Vanterpool, a young American professional studying publishing in the UK, shares the ups, downs, and lessons learned on the ground on that special day that happens only once in a lifetime: the first day of her first-ever London Book Fair.
BY LISA VANTERPOOL
As a London Book Fair virgin I made a rookie mistake: I wore heels. Don’t ask me what I was thinking. Somehow, I had set in my mind that heels would make me look more professional, more together. Well, let me tell you, there is nothing professional about hobbling up down the massive Earls Court exhibition center trying to find the next exhibitor to visit. Nothing.
Despite my shoe folly, I’d consider my first day at LBF a success. As a budding publishing professional I attended, “Your job in publishing: Recruitment and retention in the digital age.” Mary Ann Kernan of City University London, Cathy Wells of Hachette, and Claire Law from Atwood Tate, spoke to a packed room of “bright young things.” With the digital push that is occurring in publishing, this session spoke directly to those of us wanting to enter the field and directly reported on the competencies we needed to have to make ourselves—and our all important CV’s—commercially appealing. Cathy Wells, HR director for Hachette said, “We’re not looking for technicians, but for creative people who are interested in books.” Additionally Kernan stressed the importance of networking with regards to job hunting. “The network is more powerful than ever. It’s still alive and well!”
My first day at the fair wasn’t all work and no play, though. Every book fair experience should include some quality author-time, and following my first session, I headed over to the English Pen Literary Café to see the hilarious and ultra-intelligent Caitlin Moran discussing her latest book, How to be a Woman. Moran, ever the feminist, discussed everything from general hairiness, her poor upbringing and the fact that people now have the habit of coming up to her and confessing about their first time at self pleasure. Needless to say the audience was split with about 40% laughing and 60% looking down at their iPads and squirming. Overall, her candid interview left me wanting to dive right into How to be a Woman.
After a much needed food- and foot-break, I briefly attended “A helping hand with book design,” which unfortunately failed to capture my attention and I instead ventured upstairs to the International Rights Center. Security was high but I had an inside connection and chatted with a few colleagues from a past internship.
As a student, I tried my best to chat up some of the exhibitors about their business and possible work placement experience but after several failed attempts and the general response, “Visit our website,” I realized that perhaps this wasn’t the best atmosphere to do so. My colleagues from Kingston University who attended the book fair agreed. Instead, we went to the Tweet Up event hosted by Publishing Talk at the Mango Lounge and had drinks, recapping the day’s events. Most of us were tired but clearly not too tired to knock back a few glasses of wine, talk to other publishing professionals and have a few laughs.
I eventually ended my full book fair day around 10:30 p.m. with a sense of accomplishment and carried my tired feet home. Tomorrow, I’m wearing flats.
Lisa Vanterpool spent four years working in the event coordination and management industry before she dropped what she was doing to pursue her publishing career. She moved 3,000 miles away, with two large suitcases, to study for her MA in publishing at Kingston University- London. She hasn’t looked back since. Having completed a work placement at a film and literary agency, Lisa is looking to continue her promising career in London. She’s been practicing her English accent for quite some time.