Self-published British author Katharine D'Souza's report about the inaugural London Author Fair includes issues relevant to writers all over the world.
The tag line for the first London Author Fair (LAF) on the 28th Feb 2014 was “Writers Unite”, and it was attended by writers of all stripes – some experienced self-publishers like me, some new writers and some traditionally-published authors.
LAF had claimed to offer something for all of us. The schedule was packed, with topics ranging from the state of the industry to tips on using social media. I dipped into sessions where I heard about the publishing industry, the work of literary agents and, most importantly, from successful authors themselves.
Seminars by Prominent Speakers
- In a seminar chaired by top publishing journalist Porter Anderson entitled “Why Your Book is Your Start-up”, Eileen Gittens (Blurb CEO) and Gareth Howard (Authoright CEO) discussed how author entrepreneurs should identify their skills gaps then build an experienced and competent team around them. It makes sense that indie authors need to be clear what their goals for success to determine priorities and identify what support they need – just like any publishing company would.
- Philip Jones from the British book trade journal The Bookseller chaired a seminar on “The Business of Books” in which the panel spoke about trends in the industry. Figures from Neilsen's book data show increased sales in Children's, YA and Educational books with a small decrease in Adult Fiction. Non-fiction remains the largest part of the market. Holly Bennion from Wiley pointed out that book sales alone are rarely viable for publishers of non-fiction, they need to exploit other channels. When questioned about the trend to self-publish, Suzanne Baboneau of Simon and Schuster did say that the US office of her company do look at the Amazon bestseller charts to identify successful indie authors they may like to work with.
- Literary agents had their say during another seminar chaired by Porter Anderson. There was a recognition from some that they need to complement what self-publishing authors do and work in a savvy way because authors want flexibility and speed and to not give away too many rights when there's uncertainty how these may be exploited in future. They recognise the move towards self-publishing and may advise a client to self-publish if the situation suits. One had helped a début author to self-publish, adding his experience of which readers to reach.
- Beyond the nuts and bolts of the process of publishing a book, Hayley Radford of Authoright chaired a seminar on “Making Your Mark & Marketing Your Book” in which Adele Parks (an experienced author) and Matt Cain (a journalist and new author) shared their tips. Adele is very active on Twitter, and as 70% of her sales are e-book, her publisher believes her online presence supports this. Matt knows press releases have to include a newsworthy story, which can be spun out of the themes or sub-plots of a novel. Authors should look to find the angle, but Adele advised not to be ruthless about what you use because she didn't find a link between news stories and book sales.
Not much discussed in the seminars or workshops came as news to me, or convinced me that I need to buy in any additional services beyond those I already use, but then, like a good ALLi author, I keep myself well informed and am happy to do things for myself!
The pace of change in the industry is notable and some panel members did sound out of touch. As authors we can't afford that luxury.
If you're a member of ALLi and would like to report on an author event that you've attended, please email Debbie Young to volunteer.
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