I visited the London Book Fair yesterday. This was only my second visit. I went before in 2010. There is no doubt that it is an impressive sight – the Earl’s Court Exhibition Center full of trade stands for publishers, distributors, author services and self publishing companies. Its the Annual gathering of the book industry in the UK. Vital for Publishers and distributors. But is it worth a visit as an author?
The short answer is it depends. It depends on what you are trying to get out of it. If your intention is to turn up with your unpublished manuscript, stride up to Harper Collins and slap it on the table and say how much for this then? Well, you would be disappointed. What LBF is not is an opportunity for authors to pitch to agents or publishers. The agents and publishers have full diaries meeting each other and distributors and agreeing deals, assigning rights etc. The right way to approach the book fair is as an information gathering exercise and really at least as much from the publishing side of being a self published author as the author bit. In other words if you are looking for a company to assist you with publishing, proof reading etc then there were many such companies present. Likewise if you needed help with e-book conversion and sales, audio books and animated books for Ipads etc then there were plenty of people to talk to.
When I visited in 2010 I attended talks heralding the coming of Kindle to the UK and the use tablets like Ipads for books. In the 4 years since then a revolution in publishing has come – or rather 2 revolutions. E-books are taking a large and increasing share of the market but also the world has seen the creation of a good umber of Self Published Millionaires and many if not millionaires quite successful authors who made their fame or fortune via Kindle, Kobo etc. What was interesting yesterday was that I attended a couple of talks by these authors – something that would not have occurred in 2010 and this shows the growth of the Indie sector.
So what did I do at the fair? Well when I arrived I first had a meeting with Helen Hart of Silverwood publishing. I am self published and wanted Mercia Books to continue but was looking at hiring in a few services like typesetting to improved the look of the books. LBF is ideal for that type of talk. It was nice to catch up with Helen as I had last seen her at the Historical Novel Conference in 2012. I then strolled around the stalls and found someone I knew from UK Games Expo – Racheal Wyatt of Coiledspring selling games related to books and words.
I had lined up a few Seminars to attend and the first one then began. There are a number of streams of seminars around LBF. Some are very technical, some focused on Publishers and larger companies and of no value to authors. They do however have an Author HQ where a series of talks of use for authors took place. Another nearby Tech Theatre was home to short 20 minute presentations by a series of companies on e-book services and distribution.
The two major seminars I took in were:
Independent Bestselling Authors Discuss Using Kindle Direct Publishing And CreateSpace To Fuel Readership Growth. UK Kindle Direct Publishing Manager, Darren Hardy hosted this and interviewed Indie authors Tim Ellis and Mel Sherrat both of whom write full time and have successful Indie careers.
Then later (after the two techie talks) I went to Eating The Cake, Too: The New Breed Of “Hybrid” Authors Have The Best Of Both Worlds.
This time it was Diego Marano, Manager, UK, Kobo Writing Life interviewing Hugh Howey, Author – a extremely successful Indie Author.
What was clear from their conversations was that, to the disappointment I felt of some of the crowd, that there is no magic, quick route to success. Nor was there a single template or agreement on the best approach.
The bottom line seemed to be keep writing. Finish one book and get the next one started. Ensure the books are well edited and presented. Outside of that there was a wide approach to other aspects of writing. So one author was adamantly opposed to free books, whilst another swore by giving away free books as a route to getting a following. One might focus on marketing and another hardly do anything. The only thing they did agree on is getting a number of titles out there and ensuring they were well produced.
Afterwards, speaking to Kobo and Barnes and Noble I discovered I had missed the fact that they were both accepting direct submissions from Authors in the UK (not just via Smashwords). They were able to give me information about this.
SO is it worth a visit as an author? Yes if you go along with the aim of learning about self publishing and sourcing services or else plan to listen and learn from the other authors. Just don’t expect to get a five book deal by bumping into the CEO of a Big Six company.