You must be interested in publishing. It is a trade event and not aimed at the consumer, but that doesn't mean there's not lots of interesting things going on if you are, well, interested in the subjects. My best advice, if you're considering going next year, is to have a look at the seminar programme before you book. If nothing is of interest to you, the fair is probably not for you. Not being very organised, I missed a few things I wanted to see on Monday (and ended up finding out how very hard it is to get a job in publishing instead). Here's a list of what I made it to:
How to Promote Writers in Translation
Reading Outside the Box (with Matt Haig and Chris Priestley)
How to Get into Publishing
How to Get Ahead in Publishing
New Adults, Steamies, Crossed Genres - Reinventing Teen Fiction
The Challenges Facing Traditional Publishers (with Scott Pack)
What's in a "Best Of" List? (with Granta)
Blogging: The New Community*
Social Networking: Authors Have Their Say
The Campaign Revolution: New Models for Reaching Reader Communities
*OK I only saw about 10 minutes of this as I ran off to meet Anna Frame instead (who is lovely). I also caught the announcement of the Women's Prize shortlist despite it being invite only (they allowed lurkers on the sidelines). I wish I'd gone to a few more crossmedia things but there is so much going on (and all at the same time). I didn't make it back to the fair on Wednesday due to hangover coupled with lack of sleep (thin walls at hotel meant I got woken up at 6:30am) but I did have fun the night before at the Canongate party (where I had no idea who I was talking to for half the time).
People are there for business purposes so don't expect to be able to wander up to stands and have a chat. The big publishers were pretty much closed off unless you had a meeting. That's not to say you can't meet up with publishing people, but you will have to try and arrange things before hand (even if it's just a 10 minute coffee break between their meetings). However, this year it appeared the drinks came out after 5pm so if you hang around, it becomes a bit more social. Typically, the one time I was approached by someone on a stand with offers of help, it was moments after taking this photo:
Needless to say, I scurried off in embarrassment!
There was a sense that the event was not just for traditional publishers but also self-publishers, with a whole programme of events aimed at authors. There's plenty going on for those of you interested in the digital side too. One area I found the best for just wandering round was the translation centre. A lot of the stands were dedicated to specific countries and had a range of information on writers not yet translated as well as shelves of translated works to browse through. With the area not being quite so busy, it also felt a lot friendlier and there were plenty of seminars on translation too.
The whole thing is a little like my Twitter feed but in person. Lots of debates and discussions on publishing stuff, random fleeting chats and drinking in alleys... Oh hang on, that last one was just us! I had a hectic but great time and met some lovely people who were previously only pixels on my screen.