London Book Fair 2022

What can book fairs do for your journal publishing career?

London Book Fair 2022

As I write this, I am on my way home on the train from London Book Fair 2022

You might be wondering why I, as a member of the journal publishing industry, was attending a book fair. Well, there are two major book fairs in the publishing world, the London Book Fair (LBF) and the Frankfurt Book Fair (FBF). Both are primarily dedicated to trade publishing, but they both have large halls dedicated to academic and scholarly publishing, including academic journals.

Although many journal publishers have a physical presence at the book fair, purchasing exhibiting spaces, this has always struck me as a little odd for two reasons:

Are publishers buying up exhibition spaces in a rather childish game of “my stand is bigger than your stand”? Do they really attract new business at these stands or is it just a way of marking their territory? A sort of territorial publisher face-off if you will. Either way, one good thing about the stands is you usually get some great free stuff (and an excellent range of new stationary). But this is besides the point.

Most publishers will have a representative attend the London and Frankfurt Book Fairs (with or without a stand), to mingle with publishing influencers, make new connections and look for business opportunities (a.k.a, networking). This year, it was my turn to network with the best.

When I arrived at London Book Fair, I was an hour and a half early and they hadn’t opened the doors yet. Small tangent: you know those people who arrive at the airport 4 hours early just sit next to the gate and worry about missing their flight? I’m one of those people. But I digress. Once I got into the book fair, it was very tempting to drift towards the bright colours and amazing stands of the fiction section. Ever a child at heart, I still hold a candle for a good sci-fi novel. But I was a woman on a mission and made my way instead towards the Research and Scholarly Publishing Forum.

If you’re new to publishing or just starting out in your career, I highly recommend that you visit a publishing conference and listen to some of the talks to get a feel for the discussions and challenges in the industry. For the past 10 years, Open Access has been one of the main topics of conversation, but this topic has been thrown into the spotlight in the past 5 years due to Plan S (if you’re not sure what Plan S is, keep an eye out for my upcoming blog post on Open Access). It was not surprising then that many of the talks touched upon the topic of OA and open data. The Event Director Andy Ventris had also put together a top-notch range of speakers, including commercial publishers, researchers from key universities, and AI developers from tech companies. You can find the full programme and speaker list here.

Loaded up with conference freebies, business cards and a list of thank you emails to send out following my meetings, I headed home. Although I heard some useful titbits of publishing gossip (which for confidentiality I won’t be persuaded to share), the main takeaway for me from the London Book Fair 2022 is that networking is key to longevity in a career in publishing, even more so in the post-pandemic world.

The people who are the most respected in our industry, are those who are the best-connected, who have reliable sources in all different companies and institutions, and who use this information to stay ahead on the latest trends.

Robyn Mugridge London Book Fair 2022
Me at London Book Fair 2022

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