This year the Bologna Children’s Book Fair launched a new fellowship program for young international publishers interested in networking opportunities and information exchange within the publishing world.

«Our focus was on junior staff in rights or editorial already working in Children’s Publishing Houses»  told Roberta Chinni, Business Development at BolognaFiere «The fellowship has been made possible thanks to the funding coming from the European Project ALDUS, a European Book Fairs Network started by AIE – Italian Publishers Association with the goal to improve and increase traveling and exchanges across Europe for publishing professionals. The expectation is that these young publishers would become friends, stay in touch, and grow together in the industry and the idea is to create a network through years of all former fellows in order to provide a good contact base for the business. The program included meetings at the offices of major Italian publishing houses, visits to bookstores and workshops».

The five publishers selected in this first year of activities shared their impressions with the Aldus network.

Fellows at Bologna


Sahra Correia Vandenbroucke, Assistant Editor at Clavis Publishing (Belgium)

Hearing others talk about the Bologna Book Fair always made me eager to experience it myself. Working as a junior editor at the Belgian children’s book publisher Clavis, I managed fair schedules for my colleagues, helped with preparations and follow-up for the fairs. I heard about how good the Bologna fair was for doing business and how cozy it was. Then came the opportunity to join the fair myself: two weeks before this year’s edition, I got this blissful call, informing me that I could participate in the Aldus program. I was completely excited, but also a little worried. Was I well prepared? What could be my role in the program? Which publishers could or should I visit? Where would I stay? And maybe most stressful of all, what should I wear? Perhaps it seems very woman-like and even outdated to worry about my appearance, but… think about it, it was my first time, I didn’t know the environment and I wished to succeed. I simply didn’t know what to expect.
After all, everything went well. My fellow participants were intelligent, ambitious young professionals with whom I could share my opinions and passions. And our guide was the best we could wish for: Roberta Chinni, former director of the Bologna Book Fair and a great host. She guided us through the fascinating world of the fair and of the Italian publishing world. Prior to the fair we visited Mondadori and Carthusia in Milan and Giunti in Firenze. Roberta took us to special bookstores, a very active and modern library, a lecture and introduced us to people who otherwise wouldn’t have crossed our paths. Last but not least, we were treated to Italian gastronomy in various splendid restaurants.
Being at the fair, networking and attending meetings was a great learning experience. This program was, for me, an introduction to the core of international book rights business. Away from the desk and right into the field.  And next time, I know what to wear.

Dana Dinca, Rights Manager at  Curtea Veche Publishing (Romania)

I’m very happy I had the opportunity of attending The Bologna Fellowship Program sustained by ALDUS. My first time at the fair and it has giving me a lot of confidence. We had four days of training before the fair started, during which we attended workshops, joined discussions, visited key publishers on Italian market, also specialized publishers in children’s books, bookstores and libraries. We had the chance of meeting professionals involved in supporting arts, who developed and maintained various cultural projects with direct benefits in education, both local and international. We were also introduced to new aspects of the digital apps for books.

The most important aspect is that they wanted us to realize that is necessary to keep close relationships and work together to continue improvement in education, arts and cultural in general.  They encouraged us to support artistic projects and cultural values. It was a great experience to see in person all these beautiful children’s books, the best from all over the world. It makes you want to start illustrating and write yourself. There has been a good energy at the fair! The truth is that I had an amazing experience with wonderful people!

Barbara Margarida Soares, Acquisitions from Bertrand Editora (Portugal)

The opportunity to be a part of Bologna Children’s Book Fair first fellowship program was both unexpected and intensely desired. As a junior editor and rights manager a mere 9 months on the job, I have to admit that my dream of visiting the BCBF far predated my expectation of assuming the job functions that would allow me to participate. The fair itself, as many colleagues have repeatedly told me, is the most interesting, fun and pleasant one in our business. As a business fair, the BCBF manages to be highly meeting-oriented and still leave room for an intense cultural and academic schedule, providing an arena for reflection and discussion with colleagues, students, panelists, etc. The Dust or Magic Masterclass was an eye-opener. However, the fellowship program went beyond the fair. Not only was it a privilege to have Roberta Chinni as a chaperone and fellowship coordinator – and be able to pick her brains about everything children literature and BCBF-related – we were also treated to a round of meetings with some of Italy’s publishing best.The interchange with the other fellows, from varied backgrounds and different countries, was the cherry on top of the cake.

Ivelina Tsvetanova Dervisheva, Junior Editor and Foreign Rights at Hermes Publishers (Bulgaria)

The Fellowship in Bologna was incredible both on a professional and a personal level. I had never been at a Fair and didn’t really know what to expect and what was expected of me. We had meetings with editors from the biggest publishing houses in Italy which were actually an extended version of a business meeting at a Book Fair including some helpful inside information and tips. Without the Fellowship that would have never been possible. The incredible Ms. Roberta Chinni showed us how to make new contacts and basically network even in a casual setting like an exposition, award ceremony, lunch and dinner. We actually did business on our first Bologna Fair!  My first official meeting was with one of the fellows and we almost fit in the scheduled 30 minutes but after all we were talking about books… And the other fellows are amazing! We all had questions for one another and compared experiences (if you can call 8 months an experience ), we will try to keep in touch and hopefully work and grow together  for a long time.
The competition level is high but the main thing I have noticed is that people are genuinely friendly and the communication is like between colleagues not competitors. The publishing world is huge and overwhelming but now it is a little bit less scary.

Joao Miguel Vieira Alves, Editor of Aletheia Editores (Portugal)

The meetings organized in Milan gave us two important perspectives of the Italian book market: a perspective of a giant publishing house, Mondadori, with the enormous print runs and a great investment of the mass books for children; and a perspective of an independent, Cartusia, with their own and specific niche market.

We had the occasion to attend a great Masterclass in Bologna Fiere, Dust or Magic. It was a remarkable masterclass to learn about digital books and apps for children. I didn’t know much about this fantastic world of technology for children, and it was fascinating to learn from the major companies like Google that this is the “future” of children books.

The first day at BCBF was an incredible experience. It was my first time at a book fair at all, so I was very excited to see how the major publishing houses sell their rights, and especially to understand how the book fair works. In the three days the fair, I tried to see everything I could, to get many catalogs from different publishing houses, see numerous illustrations exhibitions, and attend the maximum of conferences. Bologna children’s book fair is the most important European book fair, because it gathers three distant worlds and languages: illustration, literature, and apps (technology) for children. This confluence of expressions is essential for the future of children’s book, and it is crucial for the standards publishing houses realize this convergence, and adapt to this new dimension. This fair was very important to understand the state of books for children, and the book, generally speaking.