Friday, September 14, 2012

Books, Art and Wine - Why visiting the Bologna Book Fair is always a good idea

entrance to Bologna Fair

This spring I visited the Bologna Children's Book Fair again and once again it was a fantastic experience. Since it’s about time to send in your artwork for the illustration show I thought I would share some impressions of the fair:

The Bologna children’s book fair ist the biggest fair focusing on children’s books worldwide. 4 big halls will keep you busy the entire 4 days of fair time, and all are well worth a visit. The variety of publishers and their programs from countries all over the world is inspiring and overwhelming at times, but it’s a great opportunity to get an overview of what is happening in the industries of the different countries, and to „meet“ new publishing houses and be inspired by what they are doing.

book award winners 2012
When I was there for the first time I was amazed by how different French publishing programs were from German programs, and inspired by small Italian publishers like „Orecchio Acerbo“, who were focusing on small editions of very artistic, unusual and beautiful books. Each year I have visited I have discovered at least one new publisher with an exeptional program that I wanted to follow and get in contact with.

There are several opportunities for illustrators to present themselves at the fair:

illustrator's showcase at the fair (photo: Anja Nolte)
The first of course is the show I mentioned earlier. The show is displayed simultaneously at the fair grounds and in the city, it also travels to Japan. I was surprised when I first read that they ask you to send in original artwork, but so far I have always received my paintings back undamaged and packaged very carefully, so based on my experience I would say don’t worry.

There is also a huge wall space where illustrators have the opportunity to post their work and cards for people to take away. Usually after the first day of the fair that wall is a huge colorful explosion of artwork. ‚Will anyone even bother to look?’ I thought when I saw this for the first time. But people do look, in fact they love to spend hours browsing that wall and picking up a card here and there.  Several colleagues have gotten job offers through this wall.

the illustrator's wall (photo: Anja Nolte)
The third opportunity is portfolio reviews. Many publishers will look at your portfolio at the fair if you ask them. A lot of them even have set portfolio review times now, but these review times have gotten very very very crowded, so if you would like to do this, be prepared to wait. If you had a chance to research publishers that you are interested in and ask them for an appointment in advance, that’s even better.

Also, SCBWI is present at the fair and offers opportunities to present your work at their booth. They always have an interesting program and it was wonderful to connect to other SCBWI members from all over the world at their events.

sketch duel at the SCBWI booth
So, if you ever get a chance to come to Italy for this fair you should go and experience it, it is truly inspiring. And yes, of course the beautiful city of Bologna will make sure that your free hours are filled with inspiration and beauty as well! Walking through the old stone arcades in the evening after a long exciting day at the fair, or enjoying a glass of fantastic wine in one of the great bars and restaurants, will make your visit simply perfect.


  1. Thank you Andrea, for this wonderful report and great pictures of the Bologna book fair! I hope to be able to make the trip there one day, and after hearing about your amazing experience it confirms that it's well worth the trip. Thank you!

  2. Thanks so much for sharing this report, Andrea!! Like Eliza, I would so love to attend someday. :-) Love the photos, too!