Creating a new book fair: BolognaBookPlus

-trading for general trade publishers in Springtime Bologna

What is BolognaBookPlus I hear you ask…and it’s a simple one to answer…BolognaBookPlus is the brand extension for general publishing to the acclaimed BCBF (that celebrates its 60th birthday from
March 6-9, 2023), says Jacks Thomas, Guest Director,
BolognaBookPlus.

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BBPlus was born during the pandemic, in 2020, is the vision of Elena Pasoli of BCBF, and is designed to complement the ‘mothership’ that has so successfully served the children’s publishing world for six decades. As we launched we wanted to build on the undeniable strengths Bologna boasts in the worlds of illustration and design as well as its reach across the globe. It is great to work with true experts in the design curation field and to showcase the fabulous style that publishers consistently demonstrate through their books across the globe.
I am writing this from Athens where I am visiting Greek publishers, ministers and bookshops in anticipation of their presences as Market of Honour in Bologna next year. It is a fascinating market and more than demonstrates the style, flair and passion I mention above.

The first in-person event took place March 2022 in Bologna, alongside the children’s fair. It was a very successful first iteration, comprising training events, exhibitors, design and illustration showcases, a hosted bookseller programme, seminars, networking and a hosted publisher programme.

Looking back there were several not insubstantial challenges launching a new brand extension to an existing fair, during a pandemic, an economic downturn and a war in Europe! But we were undeterred: the UK team – myself and three colleagues – supported by the wonderful Italian team, ran the very first iteration online in 2021, launching the now firmly established training events, in particular the How to Sell Rights and Understand Licensing in Children’s Books. It may cause confusion, given that BBPlus’ remit is general adult trade publishing, to have training foucused on children’s books. However, as rights are the veritable beating heart of an international bookfair, and there was no training event in existence on selling children’ s rights, we jumped in and created an inciteful and practical event on the eve of the fair.

Having set up some of the infrastructure and planning with the first online event, we were raring to go to create the first in-person event. As all the blogs and news articles reiterated during the various lockdowns and cancelled book fairs, the publishing industry thrives in the face-to-face environment. Yes, Zoom was a fantastic tool to do business with existing customers or to speak to known contacts, but all were agreed that the magic of the chance meeting and all the happenstance at an in person international book fair could not be replicated online.

Our first thoughts of course were to the needs of potential exhibitors and visitors. What could BBPlus offer that didn’t exist already? A lot of research and thought went into this first tranche of planning and strategy. Given that BCBF, the mothership as we affectionately call it, has a raft of established customers, events, initiatives and a huge global reach, we deliberated carefully what our objectives and plan would be in the first three to five years of BBPlus. An obvious route to exhibitors was those large companies with children’s divisions,who attend BCBF, but who also have general trade arms. BBPlus would offer a one-stop shop to trade rights for general as well as children’s, early in the publishing book fair calendar, in mainland Europe. Bologna as a book fair destination, needed no enticement: this we knew from our days working at The London Book Fair, where comparisons with Bologna were made, often focussing on the wonderful Italian food and weather!

We built on the success of the early online training events, adding Call Your Agent: How to Become a Successful Literary Agent – a first in an event of its kind at a book fair. We refined the How to Self-Publish in Italy offering for those wanting to pursue this avenue to publish their titles, and also added two illustration and design exhibitions, having learnt early on that these areas are central to the Bologna experience.

The first was Jackets Off!, Aiming to put design in general trade publishing at the heart of the business of books, the showcase centres around one title published across many international editions. The first title, March 2022, was The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood. The second entitled Book Jackets: The Best of the Best, showcased three top book jackets from six selected countries. In 2022 these were Italy, UAE, Ireland, Poland, Canada, China. The overall winner was Poland.

The first BBPlus Author Ambassador was Victoria Hislop, followed by Michele Roberts last March. We are poised to announce the third holder of this title very soon! Watch this space, or more usefully, sign up to our newsletter!
2023 brings an important new initiative to BBPlus, the Market of Honour programme. We are thrilled to have revealed recently that the inaugural country to wear this honour is none other than Greece. The Market of Honour programme celebrates a chosen market that showcases their country’s industry, culture, output and talent on a global stage. The contemporary cultural and literary scene in Greece is vibrant and enticing; there will be range of special events relating to the Greek publishing industry at the fair next March, and also some consumer facing events in the city.

BBPlus may still be the new kid on the block, but she punches well above her weight and is confident in her ever developing attractiveness to the world of general trade publishing.
Our partnerships with cultural institutions, the AIE (Italian Publishers’ Association) and global networks make for a rich and rewarding programme including a hosted bookseller programme with EIBF and a Fellowship programme that is taking place in Milan and Rome in December.

Indian publishers and booksellers are so welcome at BolognaBookPlus! For information on how to participate please contact Sukumar PM who is the BolognaBookPlus Consultant for India and he can be found at: pmsukumar13@gmail.com

Join in! Bologna is beautiful in March…

Greece: all set to be Market of
Honour @ BolognaBookPlus 2023

The Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, in partnership with the Hellenic Foundation for Culture, the Publishers’ Associations and the entire Greek book sector will undertake a diverse and lively programme of professional and cultural events throughout BolognaBookPlus. Greece has one of the highest book production rates in the world, its literary tradition spans millennia, with Homer considered one of the greatest and most influential authors of all time, and boasts two Nobel laureates in Literature, the poets Odysseas Elytis and Giorgos Seferis. The Ministry of Culture and Sports together with the Hellenic Foundation for Culture has recently launched GreekLit, a translation grant programme to acquaint the world with the richness of Greek contemporary writing.

The Greek publishing industry, worth €1.5bn, is largely based in Athens, enjoys its own annual international book fair in Thessaloniki, and has a strong National Literature Awards Programme. Launched in 1931, it has awarded luminaries including Giannis Ritsos, Vassilis Vassilikos and Antonis Samarakis among others. Meanwhile, the retail sector is vibrant, comprising 1500 bookshops across the country.

Nicholas Yatromanolakis

Nicholas Yatromanolakis, Deputy Minister of Culture of the Hellenic Republic, responsible for contemporary culture says, “Showcasing the vibrant Greek literary market as the inaugural BolognaBookPlus Market of Honour in 2023 is a great opportunity to share with publishing professionals and the world the wealth of Greek letters and the multitude of contemporary Greek literary voices, as well as a broader cultural programme that will highlight both Greece’s rich cultural heritage and current scene. Having recently launched GreekLit, a translation grant program, we believe the timing is perfect. We are looking forward to working closely with the BBPlus Guest Director, Jacks Thomas and BCBF’s Director, Elena Pasoli to provide a great cultural, business and networking experience.”

Elena Pasoli

Nikos A. Koukis, President of the Hellenic Foundation for Culture says, “We are very proud that Greece is to be the inaugural BolognaBookPlus Market of Honour in 2023. This honourable invitation comes after years of creative participation in the Bologna book fair with the Greek National Stand, developed by the Hellenic Cultural Foundation, in collaboration with Greek publishers and book professionals.”
Greece, Market of Honour BolognaBookPlus will include an Author Programme; Participation in the BolognaBookPlus Bookseller Programme with EIBF; Professional Matchmaking Programme; Guest Speakers at the Translation Forum and the Rights Training; Inclusion in the Jackets Off and Best of the Best illustration and Design Programmes, in addition to cultural activities with consumer facing partners.

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