London Book Fair 2013

Show floor at London Book FairOn Monday and Tuesday I was at this show at Earl’s Court, London. It’s a great big event where the publishing industry converges to show off titles, make deals and discuss the future. I went last year for the first time and enjoyed it, so I was back again, though not for the whole three days. Here’s what I thought of the stands and the seminars I went to.


Last time I walked every aisle to soak it up, but this year I didn’t need to see all the stands by remaindered book sellers and big publishing companies. The bit of most interest to me was the digital publishing zone. It seemed smaller this time, with less stuff of interest to a smaller operator. I wonder whether that illustrates a cycle. In 2011, I gathered, the traditional publishing industry was freaking out about ebooks; in 2012 there was much talk of integrating them into their operations. Maybe now it’s just seen as part of business as usual?

The stands at the show are mostly about medium to large companies doing business with each other. If that’s not you, it’s interesting to see what’s going on in the publishing world but there’s not a lot to engage with. That probably accounts for the success of the Author Lounge area, as the main bit of the show aimed at authors who want to find a publisher or self-publish and to market their work. On Monday there was a permanent overspill crowd in the aisle outside the presentation area. On Tuesday obviously someone had had a rethink, as conference centre guys made me move on even when listening to see whether a talk was worth going in to. (I couldn’t help noticing that other presentation areas were still being allowed to crowd the aisles.) It would be nice to see this expanded next year, maybe into a whole little Author Zone. Whether that happens depends on who makes the decisions for the show: self-published books are making up a significant and increasing proportion of book sales, but many folks from big traditional publishers haven’t fully grasped that yet.


The other reason for going is the programme of seminars on all sorts of topics related to book publishing. Before the event I had thought it looked a bit thin compared to last year, but more events had popped up at the eleventh hour. I detected a theme about how authors can promote themselves, online and otherwise. No doubt that’s fuelled by the increasing realisation that even if you get a deal with a publisher, unless you’re a big name they’re not going to do much promotion for you and you’ll have to take it on yourself or get help. That’s not a game most authors particularly wanted to get into or have the skills for, but they need to develop those skills like any entrepreneur.

Here’s a quick rundown of what I went to.

Book marketing workshop – Hayley from PR agency Authoright holding a sit-around in the Authors’ Lounge (which it sponsored). Hung around for the first while. Plenty on interacting with journalists, less on social media.

Transmedia Storytelling for Publishers – Alison Norrington from Storycentral. Some stories are suitable for turning into “storyworlds” that people can interact with across multiple media platforms. Talked about what’s necessary for a strong storyworld.

At the end of Monday I visited a drinks do in the Authors’ Lounge for the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) to celebrate launching a new edition of its guide to Choosing a Self-Publishing Service. Chatted to some nice people, and joined them later in the evening for a party at a nearby pub. Included Orna Ross from ALLi, whose loss of voice I empathised with;  David Gaughran, whose ebook about self-publishing had been helpful when I was making Message Bottle last year (recognised by the hat!); and someone who turned out to be the wife of a well-known roleplaying game author! (One of my other hats.)

Helping readers discover your books workshop – another sit-around, with Patrick Brown from Goodreads. In fact it was just about Goodreads and how to make use of it as an author, but that was fine as it’s something whose star is rising (17 million users) that I definitely need to explore.

Book Marketing with Gareth and Hayley from Authoright, mainly about how to use the media to promote your book. It was good, but I tend to feel that online networking is more useful than traditional media for most authors these days. Certainly there was a message that authors need to be proactive in doing promotion and can’t rely on what publishers are doing (which might not be very much at all). Let me repeat Hayley’s glorious slip of the tongue, already tweeted gleefully: “If we were marketing your book, we’d sit down and literally dissect both your book and you.” #easilypleased #doesnotmeanwhatyouthinkitmeans #sorryduck

Building Communities and Customers in Digital Publishing with Richard Stephenson from Yudu. One of the 20-min “theatre” presentations. Talking about the benefit of setting up your own store within a “container app” rather than selling through aggregator sites where you get lost in the noise. He thought that as the portable device market develops we’ll see growth in stores catering to interest niches.

Why Every Author Needs to Know their Author Brand with PJ Norman and Justin Somper from AuthorProfile. This was an excellent interactive session on getting authors to think about how to boil down some famous authors’ brands; how to do the same for themselves; and how to make use of that. It was quite like stuff I’ve been doing recently at Inspired Entrepreneur meetings, but I think for many people there it was a new way of thinking.

How to Set Up a Publishing House with Bridget Shine from the Independent Publishers’ Guild, Meike Ziervogel from Peirene Press and Simon Skinner from Nielsen. Interesting canter through stuff small publishers need to think about. My favourite bit was Meike’s stuff on the innovative promotional stuff she’d done, including salons with critics and readers at her house and pop-up book stalls at locations like food markets. Most questions went to Simon on details of how ISBNs and metadata services work.

I might have done Just! One! More! Seminar! but Mr Body had had enough of sitting around and wanted dinner and a train home, so that’s what I did. This time I must go through the blurb and notes soon rather than “filing” them for months…


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