I asked one of our foreign rights agents, Rachel Richardson, of Rights People to blog about the Bologna Book Fair for us so we could all get a sense of it. The 2016 Bologna Book Fair begins April 4th! Learn more here.

Every spring, thousands of publishers, agents, authors and illustrators from all around the world gather in Northern Italy for the biggest event on the children’s publishing calendar, the Bologna Children’s book fair!

Over four days this April, it will be all books, all the time (with a bit of licensing, a lot of pasta, oh and, some Prosecco!) for the tens of thousands of attendees. For us at Rights People, it’s a great opportunity to catch up with our clients (many of whom are US-based) and talk about all their lovely books, and then to present those same books to our customers, publishers from all over the globe. Don’t let those Instagram shots of gelato and sunny Bolognese squares fool you. We’re hard at work from early every morning until long after the sun goes down. In our email-dominated world, book fairs are a great opportunity to get the essential face time and knowledge that propels business forward. A typical day goes like this:

After early breakfast we head to the fair where we have nonstop meetings from 9:00 (or even 8:30!) until 6pm. That’s 18 meetings a day, more than 50 meeting over the course of the fair, and with six of us at Rights People, that adds up to over 300 meetings! We’ll find out how the market is going for publishers from Albania to Viet Nam, get to know a bit about their list and what they’re looking for, then go through our latest catalogue and discuss any relevant backlist. The great thing about being on a stand is we’re surrounded by all of the books that we love, both past and present, so we can find the perfect title for everyone even if the publication date was a few years back. If we’re lucky, we’ll grab five minutes during the day to scarf down a sandwich, queue for the loo, or wave hello to a passing friend (sometimes all at once).

After fair hours we squeeze in at least one or two “drinks” and parties, usually to raise a glass to the success of a publisher, agency, or sometimes in honour of one particular book. These are great opportunities to catch up with clients or customers we don’t manage to schedule in during the day, to make introductions, or to be introduced ourselves to new and interesting people! Then dinner – and dinner in Bologna is a big affair – again, usually with clients or customers. Several courses are served and the book talk is usually as exciting and never-ending as the food, and often not with English as a first language. If it sounds tiring, it is! But it’s also exhilarating, to be surrounded with people as passionate about stories as you are, to share that passion and to see how these stories are taking shape all around the globe.

After dinner the virtuous attempt to escape back to the hotel – it is nearly midnight after all, and the alarm clock goes off early the next day to do it all over again. But a Negroni (at least one) while in Bologna is practically a requirement, and this is the best time to catch up with friends and, if you’re a trans-Atlantic company like we are, colleagues whom we only see in person two or three times a year. There’s a great bar just around the corner…

Exhausted, the great and good of children’s publishing pack their notes and souvenir lumps of parmesan cheese, limp towards Bologna airport, and trip over each other as they buy the obligatory bags of Toblerone for the folks holding down the fort back at the office. The weeks that follow are busy with follow up, manuscripts flying around the globe, and – for the really lucky – London book fair, where we do it all over again (but without the pasta)!

Thanks, Rachel! This post made me hungry.