Kara Daniel, currently taking a MA in Publishing at Kingston University, was a fantastic support to us throughout the London Book Fair 2024. She worked tirelessly and diligently as our RightsZone Runner, and was amazing company too.

In this guest blog, Kara has kindly shared with us her experience and impressions of her first visit to London Book Fair and what it was like.

Kara Daniels, RightsZone Runner and first time visitor to London Book Fair 2024

I’m sure I’m not the only one who is looking back at this year’s London Book Fair as a fond blur of new faces, old colleagues, long queues and, of course, beautiful books. This was my first time at the London Book Fair and, as a newbie to the industry and the world of rights as well, there was a lot to take in.

I had the pleasure of assisting Clare Hodder and the RightsZone team at their booth, where I was able to observe and learn so much about the industry in general and dealing with rights at a book fair. In this article, I have listed what I remember most – impressions and experiences – at the 2024 London Book Fair.

The Smiles

Everyone was smiling. I was new and excited to see what the London Book Fair was all about, but it was reassuring to see book fair veterans also giddy because of the event. It felt like a big reunion. It was hard to walk through the aisles without getting stopped by someone who wanted to catch up or make an introduction. At the RightsZone booth, many former colleagues and friends stopped by to chat with Clare, sharing memories and admiring our branded chocolate bars. Both current and potential clients visited our booth at 6E70, and each of them left our small table with a smile.

The RightsZone booth table with branded wildflower seed book mark and chocolate bar

I also noted how Clare, and others, genuinely care about the people they talk to. “How are you?” was not just a nicety, but a real inquiry into you and your business.

Especially with so much work moved online, I think the London Book Fair helps remind us that publishing is a people business. It was worth it to me just to see the people I have worked with in real life, and the reassurance that we’re in a great and positive industry.

The Rights People

Coming from outside the industry, rights is not something you typically hear about. There’s a certain mystique about the rights department, like “who are they?” and “what do they do?” However, at the London Book Fair, the rights professionals came out in full force and truly showed us what they are made of.

Working with Clare and meeting more rights people has taught me that they are some of the kindest, geekiest (I mean that in the best way), and dedicated people you’ll ever meet. Let me prove it to you.

  • Kindest: I was introduced to several rights professionals at the event who immediately welcomed me into their conversations about past book fairs and told me about the ‘old days’ of working together. While there were many rights people present, it felt like a small and welcoming community that knew each other and was supportive of one another even across companies and happy to accept newcomers like me. Also, have you met Clare? Kindest person, period.
  • Geekiest: Rights people’s enthusiasm for what they do is contagious. At LBF, their excitement to meet publishers from all over the world in person was palpable. I enjoyed seeing rights managers’ faces light up when talking about different markets or titles that held potential for a new publisher’s list. Then there’s the talk of data organization and terminology. It was fun to hear the shop talk at the Rights2gether after drinks about how rights management has improved with software like RightsZone (glad I missed the card catalogues phase) and their rights idols. Someone was even wearing a shirt with a periodic table of copyright exceptions that I hope to understand all of one day. It is evident that rights people love their role in getting books into more hands.
James Bennett from the Copyright Licensing Agency in a Periodic Table of UK copyright Exceptions t-shirt
James Bennett from the Copyright Licensing Agency
(thanks for permission to share this great photo)
  • Dedicated: Watching them hop frantically between appointments (with a half-eaten lunch on the way), you can tell that rights people mean business. The London Book Fair is a testament to the important role rights has in the publishing industry, and rights managers appeared to use every minute of it. Working the RightsZone booth, it was especially nice to hear from current clients how much our product and services are helpful to their rights management teams. While it was a busy three days, Clare and team were dedicated to ensuring each meeting began and ended with a smile and the other person feeling like they were genuinely looked after.

The Lack of Chairs

It almost seems a part of the tradition of LBF to gripe about the lack of chairs. I heard multiple people mention this is an annual occurrence and watched several meetings take place standing, half-sitting on the edge of a booth or sprawled out on the floor.

To me, however, there was a sort of charm about the situation. Where RightsZone was at the IPG booth, we developed an unspoken code of ethics for chair sharing with our neighbours. While it looked like a chaotic game of musical chairs, our booth mates were good about returning chairs to the correct table promptly and watching the bereft table for an incoming appointment even if it meant giving the seat back mid-meeting. This just shows that, even when it comes to chairs, publishing is such a friendly and collaborative business. From printers, distributors and small presses, everyone in the IPG booth teamed up to help ensure a welcoming experience for all.

What’s more, this exemplifies the industry’s humble but best attribute: our resourcefulness. Give us a chair, and we will make it work for five tables. Even those sitting on the floor used their unconventional position to network and bond over the shared experience they can laugh about at next year’s fair.

From what I’ve learned, people in this business are masters at creative problem-solving and making the best of it with limited resources, including chairs.

– Kara’s perfect summation of LBF

The Vast Size and Optimism

I was warned that LBF would feel overwhelming, but I was still blown away by the impressive size and busy atmosphere. There was so much to see.

In addition to more books than I will ever have the privilege (or time) to read, there were so many cool stands for products that extended the entire book chain, some of which I had never considered, but now don’t know how we’d live without.

RightsZone fit right in with the software and tech on display that is helping to streamline and change the face of publishing, and I can’t wait to see where we go from here. Not to mention the many industry-leading speakers who took to the stage(s) on future-focused topics like sustainability, diversity, and technology that I’m still kicking myself for not attending more of.

When I told people I was changing careers to publishing, I got a lot of ‘is that still a thing?’ and ‘aren’t books going the way of the dinosaur?’. However, the sheer number of professionals at the event, ready and eager to do business with smiles on their faces, was proof enough of the passion and enduring optimism for the publishing industry that makes me excited to join its ranks. And the best part is that I now have pictures and memories of the hustle and bustle at LBF to show those who ask if publishing is on the way out, and I can confidently ask in response, ‘does this look like a dinosaur to you?’

I can’t wait to see you all at next year’s LBF!

Thank you so much to Kara for all of her help and support.

It was great to see the London Book Fair through a first time visitors eyes and to hear of her experiences and reflections.

Her kind and positive words really make what we do all worthwhile…and they remind us what a special industry the publishing industry is.