Are you a UK based author? Have you thought about paying a visit to the London Book Fair? Authors are becoming a larger element publishing conferences. It may sound odd, but they have previously been on the sidelines of big industry events. The change is most likely due to an increasing number of authors performing spectacularly without the backing of a publisher, as well as recognition that authors’ involvement and understanding of the evolving nature of design, marketing and selling of books is important to the industry’s future.
The Tools of Change conference in New York, February 2013 was noted for its increased emphasis on the author’s role in the digital revolution of the publishing industry. Whether you’re still writing, self published, or traditionally published there’s plenty you can learn by attending events like TOC and the London Book Fair (LBF).
We’ve put together some thoughts on why you might want to go, and ways to make the most of it:
- Identify the challenges publishers are facing.
If you’re a self published author then you are effectively grappling with many of the same issues as the big guys. Read the Book Fair publications, head to a few of the seminars and find out what you should be reading up on.
- Figure out how digital technology helps you take advantage of being small
Ok maybe you don’t have the same scale and resources as big publishers but there are actually some advantages. One of publishers’ major hurdles is that they tend to need permission from authors before they try something new and also need to worry about territorial rights. For authors however, they have the freedom to try whatever they want!
Another hurdle for publishers is having huge back catalogues and legacy systems that they have to maintain and convert. Authors, on the other hand, are more flexible and can jump straight into more up-to-date technology without necessarily worrying if it’s compatible with a file they created ten years ago. LBF is a great way to learn more about the options that are out there. Head to the Digital Zone and ask for info.
- Find out what kind of books/authors publishers are looking for
If you are looking for a publisher, then some of the seminars and themes can give you insight into areas publishers are focusing when it comes to new acquisitions. If you already have a publishing deal then it makes sense to be savvy about digital opportunities and challenges, to make sure your book is being handled well and you become indispensable.
- Learn, don’t pitch
Pitching your book to publishers at LBF is a long-shot. You’ll need to have a lot of sales behind you. The vast majority of meetings are made in advance and you’ll be competing with a host of agents. Plus, most of them won’t accept submissions anyway.
However, there is plenty that you can learn about publishers by getting a better feel for their business.
Publishers tend to want the books they take on to fit into one of the genres or categories that they already deal with. They ask from the very beginning, “How will I market this to consumers?” If there are stands with books on display, ask yourself if you can imagine your book standing next to theirs. Getting a better idea of a publisher’s ‘brand’ will enable you to be more targeted in submissions.
- Pick up tips from the pros
If you’re a self-publisher then take a good look around at things like book covers, sales copy, marketing campaigns – publishers have had to think a lot about how they sell their books to consumers and bookshops and there’s a wealth of knowledge to be gained from close examination. What do you think works best? Are there any trends you might like to follow? Take photos of books, posters, flyers etc to help you when you reach that stage of designing or marketing your book.
- Get tips from the authors
There’s plenty to be gained by listening to people who have been through the process. There’s a stream of author events. There’s plenty of good speakers, but we’d particularly recommend looking out for Polly Courtney. She is a great speaker and is going to be in the dedicated ‘Author Lounge’ talking about ‘The Author as an Entrepreneur’. She’ll be offering advice from her experience (and success) as both a traditionally published and self-published writer.
- Wear comfortable shoes
Seriously. Earls Court is ridiculously huge. I would take a segway if it was socially acceptable (and I owned one).
- Head for the drinks!
There are quite a few networking opportunities which leave room for little miss serendipity to throw something unexpectedly useful your way. I’d recommend checking out the Bookmachine drinks on Monday# and Byte the Book drinks on Tuesday. Both are at 4.30pm in the Digital Zone. They both give you the option to get a discounted London Book Fair entrance ticket!