For weeks now I have counted down the days before I attended the London Book Fair. This is the global marketplace where the publishing world gathers for rights negotiation, sale and distribution of content across printed books. The 2015 book fair was held at Olympia in West London over a glorious three-day event.
As I arrived, the first thing that struck me when I entered Olympia was the grand scale of the exhibition. I have never seen anything in the publishing world so gigantic before. The LBF was held on two huge floors and was very tastefully done. With over 60 countries regularly exhibiting including Hong Kong, South Africa, South Korea and United Arab Emirates, and more than 1,000 overseas companies taking part I found myself rather in awe of it all.
With a number of exciting seminars and conferences especially for writers there are plenty of reasons why an author should wish to attend the London Book Fair (LBF). Of course I didn’t go alone, I went with aspiring writer, Joy Wood, who will soon be publishing her first novel, For the Love of Emily. We both live close to Grimsby in North Lincolnshire so we caught the train on Tuesday morning and headed to Kings Cross station. Our hotel was at Earls Court, chosen because it was only one tube stop away from the spectacular Olympia Exhibition Centre.
The price to enter the London Book Fair is £35.00 which gives you entry for all of the three days. We planned to spend just one whole day at the book fair, (Wednesday 15th April) and if we were impressed, we would go back on the Thursday morning before we had to leave and catch our train home.
As I arrived, the first thing that struck me when I entered Olympia was the grand scale of the exhibition. I have never seen anything in the publishing world so gigantic before. The LBF was held on two huge floors and was very tastefully set out. With over 60 counties regularly exhibiting, that’s over 1,000 overseas companies taking part, included Hong Kong, South Africa, South Korea and United Arab Emirates, I found myself rather in awe of it all.
The London Book Fair 2015
The glassed hall was quite overwhelming and each stand was beautifully presented. HarperCollins was the first major publishing house I spotted and of course I soon found Bloomsbury. The intention of these stands are for publishing houses to meet with not just UK representatives, but also with overseas buyers, agents and bookstores. These gigantic booths are not there for authors to sell their books although having said that, on the upper floor I did find a few self-published authors who had gone to the expense of hiring a small stand.
So what is there at the London Book Fair for authors? The answer is simple. Within the fair there is a vast inside knowledge to feed upon and if you’re lucky you might come away with a few exciting contacts.
Upstairs, almost tucked away from view is Author HQ and this place turned out to be invaluable. Not only did I mingle with agents, publishers and other writers but here I was able to learn new strategies to help with my writing from the professionals. These came in the form of seminars. For forty five minutes at a time, authors, agents and representatives from publishing houses talked to you about subjects which are close to your heart. They give you tips, their experiences, their honesty and most importantly they give you information which you can’t get from the internet. You can ask questions and after the seminar, if they don’t have to dash off to a meeting or another convention, you get the chance to have a brief conversation with them. It’s brief because there is anything up to fifty people who also want to chat to them so you need to know what you want to ask by the time it’s your turn.
Successful Social Media Strategies
Social media gives authors the power and ability to connect directly with their readers in a way that is fundamentally changing the way we buy books and this seminar helped to show authors how to use social media to their advantage.
The speakers were:
Chris McCrudden – Head of Technology & New Media
CJ Daugherty – Author and Freelance Digital Marketing
Marissa Hussey – Director of Orion
How I made It – Living the Dream
Four writers shared their different experiences of how they launched their writing careers and their success to date.
Mel Sherratt – Follow the Leader
Stephanie Hudson – Afterlife
Keith Houghton – Killing Hope
Rachel Abbott – Only the Innocent
Publishers and Agents- How They’re Discovering New Talent
Publishers and agents are always on the lookout for new writing talent – what are they looking for and what is the best way to pitch your ideas?
Juliet Mushens – The Agency Group
Iain Millar – Canelo Digital Publishers
Rebecca Swift – The Literary Consultancy
Kindle Direct Publishing
Here three bestselling KDP authors told us about their writing and publishing experiences and how they became successful.
Genre Spotlight – Contemporary Fiction
The big question for everyone in publishing is ‘what is the next big thing in commercial fiction?’ We would all like to produce bestsellers but it’s not that easy not even for those who are ‘in the know.’
These are just a chosen few of the events held over the three days for authors but there are a whole lot more from TV and film to seminars on the new digital software that will no doubt revolutionise writing. I noticed that one editing company is creating a new package that practically does the editing for you!
Interview with Aspiring Author Joy Wood and Her Take on the Three Day Event
Q. Have you enjoyed the Book Fair?
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. For an aspiring writer, it was a great opportunity to meet with other writers, and visit the individual publishing stands. I was overawed by the millions of books on show, and the amount of information available.
Q. What was the most enjoyable part of the visit for you?
I particularly liked Author HQ. There was an abundance of presentations from various speakers, which were not only informative, but each gave a question and answer session afterwards, and many of the queries asked by individuals seemed applicable to me as a new writer.
Q. Any particular highlights from the speakers?
There was a buyer from W H Smith book store that specialises in stocking shelves in travel outlets such as train stations/airports etc. He talked about the importance of the cover of a book attracting the busy traveller.
Rachel Abbot (self-published author) talked about the use of social media to promote your novel. I had no idea how long authors had to spend each day on line promoting their books – it was like a business in itself.
Karen Healey Wallace, (author of the Perfect Capital) was an absolute inspiration about not giving up as a self-published author, and her tenacious drive to get her novel into book shops, was amazing.
Q. Any part of the book fair you didn’t like?
In my naivety, I had expected that there would be an abundance of agents and publishers available to speak to! However, it soon became apparent that this wasn’t the case, and while opportunities to speak with individual agents/publishers were available, seemingly these 1-1 meetings had to be pre-booked in advance.
I was also approached by a CEO of a publishing company, and while he was very encouraging and keen to critique my work as a new writer, and assess if it had publishing potential, it soon became apparent there would be a cost involved.
Q. Did you get an opportunity to meet other writers?
Yes, informally around the book fair, over coffee and lunch; and there were self-published authors that had purchased a marketing stand, and were promoting their own books.
Q. Any advice to anyone considering attending next year?
Yes, if your desire is to speak to an agent, pre-book an appointment, which I understand that you need to do in January/February when they open their calendars prior to the Book Fair. Oh, and yes, take some comfy shoes!
Thank you Joy for your views on the LBF. I can see you found it extremely beneficial as a writer to visit the exhibition.
I can’t deny I also had a fantastic time at the London Book Fair. I’ve certainly learned a lot and met some interesting and fabulous people. The one thing I didn’t know and this might put you in good stead. As Joy pointed out earlier, if you are hoping to speak with an agent direct, this can be arranged but you must book a slot with the agent via the London Book Fair website around January/February time to avoid disappointment.
Of course, in the evenings we went into central London to chat about our day and sample the delights of Covent Garden. Here I am at the wonderful restaurant Bill’s where I can certainly recommend their homemade ‘Eton Mess’.
Don’t dribble too much as you look at my dessert and I look forward to seeing you all at the London Book Fair next year!