This is a a summary of an article that I recently wrote for my Faber Alumni Group about the wonderful experience of visiting the London Book Fair. I hope that you like it and welcome any comments or contributions about the value of such events to an author.
Heaven can wait as I recently discovered a place here on Earth populated by like-minded people, who share my interest in the written word.
The three days of the London Book Fair at Earls Court were great value for £30, providing me with an enriched understanding of the publishing side of the writing business. I have realised that I cannot make an informed decision about the publication of my first novel if I do not understand the dynamics of the business. Even respected authors with secure publishing contracts are changing their approach to their future publications in the changing industry and all authors must be aware of the current issues facing the book publication business.
I decided to attend LBF after reading about it on a post by Susannah on the Faber Alumni site and I am grateful to her for bringing it to my attention. The event is historically aimed at the providers in the publishing business, including companies involved in the technical, legal and marketing areas. However, during the past few years a revolution has taken place and writers and authors are commanding greater recognition in this trade fair.
Earl’s Court is divided into two venues Earl’s Court 1, EC 1, and Earl’s Court 2, EC2. EC1 contained stands of the major publishers, printers, rights companies, distributors, bookshops, etc. EC2 was dedicated to the specialist area of the year, in this case the Turkish publication industry, Digital developments, and The Authors. In The English Pen Literary Café celebrated authors participated in presentations and question and answer sessions. When I arrived on the Monday morning at the LBF, I went to watch William Boyd discussing his writing day, inspirations, and his new James Bond novel, Solo.
It was interesting to listen to the experiences of such a renowned author and my plan was to attend more of these sessions; however that was before I discovered The Author’s Lounge. This amazing section of the LBF was organised by Authoright in conjunction with some of the major self-publishing companies such as Kindle, Matador, and Kobo and other industry providers in such areas as marketing, book cover design, etc. The Lounge was divided into two sections, one with a small stage and seating for approximately 60 ish people, and the other with some small tables and chairs for meetings and working seminars. There was also a television running specialist films and re-runs of some of the speeches throughout and four sets of headphones so that the viewer could listen without disturbance.
Each day in the Author Lounge a programme of seminars and presentations ran throughout opening hours, lasting approximately forty-five minutes to an hour. The topics covered were varied but always of interest and value to the author. I can’t repeat all of the lectures and was unable to attend many of them due to conflicting interests however I thought that it might be useful to give you some of the key points which arose.
- Self-publishing is a realistic option for any author.
- The author will potentially make more income from self-publishing. The cost could range from between £2000 to £3000 for a hard-press copy rather than an e-book however this is variable and depends on how much help the author needs with the process. One company, Matador (this is a self-publishing arm of Troubadour mainstream publishers), produce books at a level of quality which equals anything you would see in a bookshop and they also have connections with some of the bookshop outlets.
Mainstream publishers do not necessarily do your editing, marketing, etc for you and the author is expected to be active in their own marketing with a strong brand image.
- The advantages of the mainstream publisher deals still seems to be the kudos given to your work. This for many of us, me included, probably would be the Holy Grail.
- There are many firms, such as Authoright, that exist to help the author prepare their book for publication and identify the most appropriate way to get their book to market, whether it is through an agent, a mainstream publisher or self-publishing.
- The role of the agent is changing. They exist now as the gatekeepers to the publishers and few of us will ever get past their stranglehold so if mainstream is where you want to be published, find the best agent for your genre. Make your introductory letter count – have a way of catching interest in the first line. A synopsis should give the genre, the breakdown of the chapters, identify the key characters, state the premise and the obstructions to it and also the outcome and resolution. All of that needs to fit onto one or two pages, no more. A biography should state something interesting about yourself which is your key marketing point.
- The industry is changing each year and some of the big players now are under threat. Most big publishers will not be paying out big advances and, if the information is correct, an author can only expect to make a small amount from the royalties. More money may be made from author events, speaking engagements etc.
- Some companies are making progression into the digital world (Faber and Faber is one of these).
- Paper books still outsell eBooks in this country but their market share has declined during the past few years. In the States eBooks account for about 40% of book sales.
- Choose a book cover which can be reduced and still recognised in the Amazon type of market place.
- Put your eBook everywhere. One is not exclusive and you can self-publish on Amazon, Kobo, etc at the same time and should do so to achieve maximum market potential.
- The meta data, used when listing a book on the internet, is vital so make sure that you identify all key words which you want people to use to search for and identify your book. For example if writing a romance then words such as love, sex, heart, couple, are essential.
- Use GoodReads as an author. This is a whole subject in itself and I haven’t done it yet but is definitely something that I will do.
- Networking is useful and everyone agreed that Twitter is the most valuable tool with Facebook receiving the most negative feelings.
- At the LBF there is an opportunity to display your book in the New Titles Showcase and also, if you are quick on the button, to secure a meeting with an agent. I did this and lucked out on my allocated agent as she was interested in me and I liked her however the whole thing is very random so don’t expect a contract; just valuable experience.
- You must be able to work with whoever you choose so agents, publishers etc matter in how they relate to you as a person. There are many authors who feel that they have lost control in the big business of publishing.
Well, I could go on and on so I am going to complete this by urging everyone to try to attend the LBF or other industry fairs if they can and if not then read as much about the industry as you are able before committing to a contract.
This event will be on my ‘must do’ list for the next few years.