Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Indie Authors Storm the London Book Fair - by Kathleen Jones

It's 3 years now since the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) first stormed the closed doors of the London Book Fair and since then the dust has begun to settle.  Although there still seems to be some bewilderment at the change, authors are now firmly a part of one of the biggest book events in Europe.  It seems incredible that it was ever otherwise.  How can you have books without authors? It's as though the mainstream publishing industry has got into the habit of regarding us at best as inconvenient amateurs, at worst just the chicken that lays the egg.
Just one of the halls at Olympia.
This year, for the first time, I was able to go along and I had the most incredible experience.  Held at Olympia, the Fair is absolutely vast.  So big that I got lost on a regular basis, despite having a map, and on Day One I had three attempts to find the right exit before being escorted out by a burly bloke in a Book Fair T-shirt.  All the major publishers (and most of the others) had a presence there and there were stands from publishers all over the world.  Truly international.  It's expensive to book a stand, but many of the small independents had joined together to share space. The buzz was absolutely electric.
The place to be for anyone interested in Self-publishing
What was different at this year's Book Fair was the big presence of self-publishing - or Indie - providers.  Author HQ, sponsored by Amazon KDP and Kobo, was one of the most crowded and popular sectors with a daily programme of talks and discussions.  I went to a couple of their events, but they seemed to be aimed mostly at people just setting out on the self-publishing journey, rather than experienced authors.  On the other hand, some of the networking events (with wine!) were very useful, so it was a good mix.
All working hard!
Also there, as a big presence, were self-publishing enablers such as Ingram Sparks.  E-book converters and distributors were everywhere, selling their services - if you had the money. We had conversations with several, including Robin Cutler of Ingram Sparks and a representative from Apple about i-books.  In terms of getting information and being able to talk to people face to face, it was one of the most useful events I've ever attended.

After the Book Fair closed for the day, everyone headed off to the pub, where we met a number of interesting people, including top agent Lesley Pollinger.   It was great fun and very sociable.  If you enjoy people watching, this was a bonanza.
Where the work really gets done!
On Friday, Triskele Books and ALLi had arranged a conference for self-published authors at Foyle's bookshop, with some really useful talks by the big providers as well as many of the most successful 'Indie' authors - such as C.J. Lyons, Rachel Abbott, and many others, sharing their secrets with the rest of us. C.J. Lyons had some very good advice for authors who want to sell a million books. 'Don't try to sell a million - write something that a million people want to read'.  There was a very useful panel discussion with Nicola Solomon from the Society of Authors and John Prebble of Arts Council England.  It's amazing how many grants you can apply for, even if you are self-published.  Porter Anderson and Robin Cutler talked about how self-publishing is now changing the way traditional publishing works, and Porter showed us how to get our books into the US library system via Self-E. If you want a summary of all the valuable information that was given you can find it at IndieReCon2015. 

Afterwards there was a Book Fair where we could all sell our books.
Authors Electric was well represented.  John Logan was suitably dressed for the event:
Former members Roz Morris and Linda Gillard were there -
Roz Morris

Linda Gillard


Dan Holloway performed a poem in spectacular style as part of a talk with Rohan Quine - an impassioned plea which you can read or/and listen to here.

And the 'Outside the Box' girls were there promoting their 7 novel boxed set - a brave experiment in group publishing.

L-R, Kathleen Jones, Roz Morris, Carol Cooper, Jane Davis and Orna Ross
I met some amazing people and had a wonderful four days, though I didn't get much sleep.  I would certainly advise any author to tackle the London Book Fair - there are lots of opportunities for networking, and just browsing it gives you a very good idea of how the World of Books operates. Big distributors such as Gardners and Bertrams are there and there is so much information it makes your head spin.  Tickets are free if you book online early enough, so there's no excuse!

Kathleen Jones is a biographer, novelist and poet who publishes on both sides of the fence.  She blogs at 'A Writer's Life'. Is often to be found wasting time on Facebook, and Tweets incognito as @kathyferber 
Her latest escapade is to join 6 other women writers in a collective publishing experiment called 'Outside the Box'.  It's limited edition and has only 3 more weeks to run on Amazon. 




10 comments:

Wendy Jones said...

Sounds like an amazing day. I wish I could have been there. Next year I will be

Kathleen Jones said...

Yes, Wendy - well worth the effort. We'll all be flagging up when the free tickets are available - round about january I think.

Dennis Hamley said...

I went to LBF on the Tuesday and had a good day with some publishers who asked me to meet them and others I wanted to annoy. I came to the Inpress stand late in the day but you must have gone by then. I'm not sure whether I'm in ALLi or not; I must make sure. I couldn't have got to London on Friday anyway, but I sure would have liked to be at the conference, if only to read the whole of John's t-shirt. Thanks for the links. Required reading.

John A. A. Logan said...

Was great to meet you, Kathleen! Some ideas from the events/talks that day are still percolating away in my mind, to hopefully be used later...

Sorry you missed it, Dennis (I am still trying to sell that T-shirt by the way!)

Alice said...

Very interesting. I think, as you say, the bizarre thing is that writers are only now involved. I think it is all about the shift in power between publishers and writers. All good news, I think.

Kathleen Jones said...

You're right Alice - the balance is shifting. Andrew Lownie has said that by 2020 he thinks 80% of authors will be self-publishing to some degree. It's very good news from the point of view that we're gradually gaining control over our own books!

Kathleen Jones said...

Sorry I missed you Dennis - I had probably wandered out of Inpress and round to one of the other stands. Or possibly gone off to meet Neil who arrived towards the end of the afternooon. Hope your publishers' meetings went well!
John - it was great to meet up after so long reading your stuff on the blog and in print. I came away quite revved up, having been a bit despondent about indie publishing. Hope you did too.

Lydia Bennet said...

I really must join ALLi... good to see these events including more kinds of publishing. some good info in here too, thanks Kathleen! maybe see you next year!

Kathleen Jones said...

Hope so Lydia Bennet! Keep hoping to meet up in the north, but all your events seem to coincide with me being somewhere else. One of these days we are bound to bump into each other!

julia jones said...

Thanks for the report an maybe it's time to give it another go - wen a few years ago and merely felt intimidated and somewhat despairing. To meet friends - that would be different