Tuesday, 15 May 2012

In which I destroy (part of) London Book Fair

I feel I should apologise to the company at the London Book Fair whose display I destroyed twenty minutes into the first day. Trouble is, in my stress I also completely forgot their name.

It was the beginning of a day during which I came to feel I really would have been better not being there. And if there's anything positive to take out of my experience, it's a reassuring message to all those writers who think they should go to LBF: you don't need to. Please do go if you want to, and many enjoy it and get something out of it, but it's really a trade fair, for publishers and agents. Not people like me. (OK, well, not me then.)

Anyway, back to my confession.

I arrived nice and early, an hour before I was meeting fellow authors/friends for coffee - the highlight of the day, definitely. Anyway, while wandering round aimlessly, I suddenly realised that I'd been incredibly useless and forgotten my pen. And notebook. Also, I'm utterly ashamed to say, my Crabbit bag. I mean, FGS, an author at a trade fair with NO PROMO MATERIAL? What was I thinking?

Now, clearly, no one was going to be selling Crabbit bags so I had to forget about that. But surely someone would be selling notebooks and pens? I had not realised at this stage that actually you aren't allowed to sell (or, therefore, buy) things at LBF. Things are for looking at only. Coveting and drooling over and doing foreign deals over, but not actually taking away and using. Even for ready money, and my money was ready.

Nothing daunted, I found a stationery company, and its beautiful display with lots of notebooks and lots of pens. And I picked up a notebook, to the excitement (I thought) of the man manning the stall. "How much are these?" I asked.

"Well, varying prices," he said, mysteriously.

"How much is this one?" I asked, and then started babbling about how I was so silly and had forgotten my notebook and had important coffee meetings to attend and this notebook was just perfect.

"£6.99," he said as I got out my purse. (Do you mind if we skip the bit where I dropped my money?)

"Ooh, and a pen," I said, as I waited for him to get change out of his wallet. (Change out of his wallet? Did the guy not have a TILL?) I picked up a pen from a pot of lovely pens and scribbled on the paper beside it, as you do.

"Um, we can't sell those ones," said a young woman coming to the rescue. "But we can sell one of these, if you like?" So I put down the forbidden pen and picked up one of the allowed ones, which looked very similar to me, and started scribbling on the paper again.

I was somewhat, but belatedly, aware that she was saying, "Um, that's not really for writing on - let me get you..."

"Oh, sorry, I thought it was the test pad. Look - someone else has already scribbled on it!"

"Yes," she said. At which point I realised that I was the someone else who'd scribbled on it. A few moments before. With the forbidden pen.

"It's just that I thought it was there for customers to test the pens on, you know, like in a shop." I realise that my intonation did imply that I meant to say proper shop.

"Well, it's just that this is our promotional material."

At which point, I was mortified. I'd ruined their only promotional material, with their beautiful logo. And the Fair had only been going twenty minutes. Subconsciously, clearly, I was so consumed with jealousy that they actually had any promo material that I felt the subliminal need to destroy it. I am a bad, bad person.

Reader, I ran. I am not meant to be at the London Book Fair, I can see that now. And I can't bring myself to use the notebook or pen.


  1. Oh my goodness you'll be the talk of the steamie.

  2. And you seemed like such a proper person, too.

  3. Er, whoops! Hope that wasn't a company you're ever hoping to do some business with...

  4. Oh dear, that's the sort of thing I'd do!

  5. Elizabeth Dunn17 May 2012 at 20:24

    I thought the industrious young woman was going to nab her pen from her bag and sell it. Would you have coughed up (your coffee)? Or tested it on her face? Note for future: both options unacceptable.


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