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We went to the Bologna Children's Book Fair 2024...

In the sleepy outskirts of the gorgeous Italian city of Bologna, there lies a small book fair. Half an hour’s walk away from the city center through mostly empty streets, you suddenly walk into a wall of people waiting in line to get in the main hall and get the party going.

As I walked in, I was hit by hundreds of sounds full of joy, excitement and the hustle and bustle of business, and found it an unlikely mix of gray business suits and the colorful expressions of children's art books.

In front of me there was an endless wall of posters, business cards, and all manners of art just covering every single corner of it as far as the eye could see.

As I walked from building to building, looking at the many thousands of books, toys, clothing items and cartoon characters, a thought struck me: this thing might not be that small after all. Some stats for scale: Over 1,500 exhibitors from 100 countries and regions participated in the 61st Bologna Children’s Book Fair.

Over 30,000 trade visitors attended the fair, marking a 10% increase compared to the previous year. Incredible exhibits of silent books, collages, and floating books to read were everywhere. It was overwhelming in the best of ways.

However, what I was most interested in was the Illustrator’s survival corner and the Author’s corner. The place where you can meet and greet other professionals and up and comers in the industry, meet authors and discuss the labor of love that is our business.

The highlights included the masterclasses by Oliver Jeffers, Shelley Ann Jackson, Ella Beech and Rachel Bostick, and many others.

They covered what it’s like to climb the ladder of success in the industry, from the perspective of both illustrators and authors, while showcasing their work.

Talks about social media, community building and the value of providing value to others. A lot of talk on the “here to stay, what are we going to do about it?” AI phenomenon that’s sweeping the industry, as well as how to stand out from the crowd that uses it. However, the biggest eye opener for me was the sheer amount of talent that’s out there in the world. Once you see the talented works displayed everywhere, before you even get to the published books, you end up feeling humbled and very thankful you still have a job. The focus of the fair was on the business aspect, selling and buying of books, licenses and IP rights, but there’s something for everyone. It was educational, and very eye opening. Can’t wait to go again.

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