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The Importance of Book Fairs

The Importance of Book Fairs blog by Gillian Leggat

Writing is a solitary profession. You settle down in your favourite place to work, you practise the discipline of writing for so many hours a day, but you’re not DOING it with anyone. You’re in a place, by yourself, getting on with the task. You may have fellow writer friends whom you consult every now and again, but while you’re writing, you’re very much on your own.

This is where book fairs come in. It’s so good to be in a place with so many other like-minded people: readers, writers, publishers, illustrators. How wonderful. You can go and listen to other authors sharing their gems on discussion panels, informally chat with strangers in the room while you’re waiting for the event to start, or get feedback from them afterwards while sharing a glass of wine or buying the latest book.

A long time ago, there was a children’s book fair at the University of the Western Cape. I came down from Jo’burg to attend that event, and there is no doubt in my mind that the event launched my writing career….mainly because of some extremely useful connections I made. I had been writing for four years before that event and sending off my manuscripts here, there and everywhere. One of the lady publishers I met was launching a new Reading series for primary school children. She asked me to write stories for a number of different age groups. When I got home, I was so inspired – I wrote story after story. Sadly, that publisher never managed to get off the ground due to limited finances. But I sent all those stories off to Macmillan – 20 of those stories were included in their reading scheme. So, as I say, that book fair basically launched my writing career.  My story, Jabu and the Red Drum (Tafelberg), was also revised by a practising children’s author in a workshop session. It became my second children’s book.

Since then, I have attended many book fairs, none quite as useful for my career as that one, but all highly stimulating and encouraging. I will now outline why Book Fairs are so important in a writer’s life.

Making Connections at Book Fairs

At a good book fair, everyone who’s anybody in the publishing world is there, so you have the opportunity to meet a prospective publisher.

A host of authors who write in all sorts of different genres will be milling around. What a privilege it is to meet some fellow authors and connect with them.

Watching readers paging through books in the bookstall is always encouraging. If you do manage to speak to some fellow readers after events, in coffee shops or the bookshop, that’s a big bonus.

For me, making connections and networking is definitely the number one reason that I attend book fairs.

Attending talks that interest you.

Hearing how other writers conduct their craft is so stimulating, informative and interesting. If that writer is someone who is writing in my genre, I always take notes of pertinent details I think might be useful to me later. You can also broaden your horizons when you go to book fairs. There is so much variety and so many different events, so even if the talk/panel isn’t directly relevant to you, you can always learn something new/be stimulated by a new thought/fact, and maybe even get a new idea for a book.

Enjoying the camaraderie and the cuisine

Book fairs are usually places that are buzzing with life. There are so many people from all walks of life that you might bump into at the coffee stand or in a restaurant. Chance chats, surprising meetings – I’ve bumped into long-lost relatives at book fairs – delicious food and sheer fun.

What a privilege to attend events where everyone has one thing in common:


Enjoy your book fairs.

Breath of God by Gillian Leggat
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