Crime fiction, corporate thrillers, construction manuals, critics, agents, writers and publishers – every sort of book, and anyone who might be interested in it, was at the London Book Fair last week. Only consumers were conspicuous by their absence, although most individuals in the book trade love to read and it’s what draws them to it in the first place.
Publishers, especially the big corporations, rule the roost at the Book Fair. The big boys take huge stands, piled high with the latest publications. It must be fiendishly expensive. I was told an independent publisher paid £150 for shelf space for two books. The organisers don’t miss a trick either; even the stairs are sponsored.
There’s plenty for authors at the Fair too, with an Author HQ hosting networking events and lots of seminars. This is relatively new. Personal finance writer Penny Golightly (what a great name!) says “The Book Fair’s been running intensive Author HQ events for the last four years. They’re incredibly useful.” Highlights of the seminars included what journalists want (they’re very busy, so send a tailored email with a crisp, clear call to action), and the importance of good book cover design. Book buyers, PR consultants and writers all stressed that a professional book cover was essential. “I paid for my first novel, Park Life, to be professionally designed,” says author Katharine D’Souza, “and readers tell me it’s really appealing.” (It’s a compelling read, too – see it here.) Reviewers and bloggers had their say as well. They’re looking for page turners, and, at the risk of stating the obvious, they expect to be approached about books within their chosen genres. No vampire romances for the crime thriller enthusiasts, please.
Self-published authors are the least important ants in the anthill, but still welcome at the lavish networking drinks hosted by the publishers each evening. Simply turn up, and enjoy a glass or three of plonk. Just don’t be surprised to be told by a literary agent that he’s forgotten all his business cards at the British book world’s biggest annual beano. “Write down their email address even if you don’t get a business card,” suggests networker extraordinaire Justine Solomons of Byte The Book. A national book reviewer was happy to have a copy of After The Interview emailed to him to read, even though his broadsheet doesn’t permit him to write about self-published books.
Writers are a friendly bunch, and it was a delight to meet and swap tips with authors I rate, among them Katharine D’Souza, Peter Sutton and Andy Lake. When all’s said and done, we’re drawn together by a common interest in books. Don’t forget, you can stay in touch, too – please sign up for my newsletter here.