Ciao! Just got home from Italy, home of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair!
First, the travel report: Our one-hour flight from Bologna to Frankfurt took many hours, because the first flight was cancelled and the second an hour late. This left us with 15 minutes to sprint across Frankfurt airport and catch the plane to Singapore. We were so late that we’d lost our seats, and had to be seated apart for 12 hours, me in a dreaded middle seat of the dreaded middle row. In Singapore Airport we got a micro-hotel room for a shower and two hours of precious horizontality. Then seven hours to Sydney.
It was a long day—actually two days, because of the time shifts. (If I owe you email, or haven’t posted in other comment threads, forgive.)
But enough complaining. The main thing to know is that Bologna is gorgeous . . .
And old. It has Roman walls around its center, but it’s the medieval buildings that rock most. In the 1200s, the city’s wealthy families competed with each other by building big towers. (To like, uh, show that they were wealthy. That was before TV.) The two most famous are above.
Bologna also has the best food evah. Blood orange juice, lots of truffles (not the chocolate kind; the mushroomy kind), and, of course, genuine SpagBol. (Which means “Spaghetti Bolognaise.” Did you guys know that? Turns out my German translator didn’t . . . Oops.)
We ate at this one place where they pour hot risotto into a giant hollowed-out wheel of parmiagiana, stirring it around so that it sucks up the cheesey goodness, and then shave truffles on top. They also put truffles on fresh mozzerella, on eggs, and on potatoes. Death by truffles.
We ate there twice. (Thanks, Eloise!)
The book fair itself was amazing. About 8,000 illustrators, editors, agents, sub-agents, scouts, and other publishing types were gathered to talk books, make deals, and decide what’s hot. As authors, Justine’s and my job was like that of lobsters in a restaurant tank: look pretty at dinner. Now, this simile has issues, given that we were wanting to be chosen, and the lobsters maybe not so much. But you get it, right? Basically, we were there to put a human face on our books, to be charming, and to let our agents and US publishers drum up interest in other lands and languages.
It was a great week. I love hanging out with book people, who are smart and dedicated and interested in the world. Surrounded by 8,000 experts, these are the things I learned about children publishing:
The history, economics, and mechanics of pop-up books is endlessly fascinating.
Sweden likes hardbacks; Brazil prefers trade paperbacks.
Translators in France earn 8-10 cents per word (US cents), plus 1% royalties.
The children’s picture book market tanked about ten years ago.
Scouts are like reverse agents: matchmakers, but paid by publishers instead of authors.
Gossip Girl is published in 29 territories.
The Italian kids/YA market is 75% books in translation.
The Dutch throw the best parties.
Okay, I haven’t even mention the SCBWI conference we taught at, or the amazing fig gelato, or that our luggage is still in Frankfurt. But jetlag is eating my brain now. Must watch mindless TV.
Luckily, Justine has put up a rather more coherent post than mine.
So let me just say thanks to everyone who bought us dinner, lunch, or drinks, or just told us cool stuff.