The London Book Fairs 2012 and 2013
The first time I attended the London Book Fair was in 2011 and it struck me that writers did not have a place at the Book Fair. I found this ironic because without writers providing the content, the hundreds of people busily engaged in meetings would have nothing to discuss. I attended some seminars, which included: ‘Marketing Your Book’, ‘Copyright in the Digital Age’, ‘EBooks’, ‘The Book is Dead: Long Live the Global Book’ and ‘The Great Debate: Will Publishers Soon Be Irrelevant?’
I found that the world of traditional publishing and self-publishing were polarised aspects of the industry – very much an either or situation. I didn’t feel comfortable with this polarised view, but at the time could not see how this would change.
Moving on to the London Book Fair 2012 I was impressed by the changes within the industry in such a short space of time.
A seminar I attended was on ‘Contract, Copyright, Collaborate and Communicate’. Neil Blair, one of the speakers, referred to the publishing industry facing the same problems the music and film industries have had to face: piracy. He went on to discuss the importance of creating a fan loyalty so that the instinct would be to buy the book and authors should invest time on marketing on a global scale.
Laurence Kaye, from Laurence Kaye Solicitors, referred to the relationship between publisher and author no longer being a linear relationship. He then discussed social media raising the profile of authors and readers engaging with authors so that authors were becoming a brand. This point came up many times over in seminars I attended at the 2013 LBF.
A final point made was that: This is not a trend; this is a transition in the publishing industry, so there needs to be a mind-shift in the industry and a focus on collaboration.
In 2012 I attended presentations in the Digital Zone because I wanted to learn as much as possible about digital publishing; I changed my writer’s hat for a publisher’s hat, but as a result I also learnt about the new options and opportunities available, for authors, in the digital age.
One of the presentations in the Digital Zone was by DocZone book publisher and the speaker referred to two challenges faced by the publishing industry in the last decade: the need to reduce cost and sell at a lower price, largely as a result of Amazon and online selling, and the rise of ebooks. It was interesting to hear of the difficulties facing large trade publishers. I then considered the advantages of digital publishing for writers, which included the low cost of publishing and distributing ebooks, flexibility in adjusting the pricing of ebooks, and being able to directly engage with readers through online platforms.
Pricing of books was also a point I heard at the Kobo presentation where the speaker said that pricing is ‘a rich area for experimentation. What will a reader be prepared to pay for an author they have never heard of before?’ He referred to every self-published author being a publisher too and every publisher is focused on sales. The factors effecting sales are; cover, category, price and promotion.
I built on self-publishing knowledge by attending the ‘Publishing Today with Kindle Direct Publishing’ seminar.
Digital publishing and companies like Kindle Direct Publishing were offering opportunities to writers that were transforming the publishing landscape: they were levelling out the playing field between self-published authors and large trade publishers. Kindle Direct Publishing author, Rachel Abbott, was an inspirational and generous speaker, offering advice on how she became a best-selling author on Kindle. Marketing was central to her success and a marketing tool she used was twitter.
Marketing is key and I have come across this time and time again.
A writer cannot successfully self-publish without having a marketing strategy. The best-selling, self-published authors I have come across have had a background in marketing or IT – if they haven’t come from marketing or IT backgrounds, they have learnt about the two. My background is in law and I don’t have these skills to the extent I would need if I were to successfully self-publish, so it is an area I need to invest in.
Chris Jennings’ seminar on ‘Creating EBooks’ opened up the world of digital books in a way I had never considered. It was about the nuts and bolts of creating ebooks and the challenge for publishers to make beautiful ebooks with fine typography. I became aware that ebook typography and print book typography were two very different things and publishing houses were having to learn about ebook typography, possibly collaborating with other companies. What did that mean for me as a writer? Would I be able to access this service? Could my ebook look as good as a large trade publisher’s ebook? I was already working with a professional editor, who also worked on a freelance basis for a large trade publisher, and so wasn’t concerned about the editing and proofreading of my manuscript. But if I were to self-publish, it was essential that the quality of my ebook match the quality of ebooks published by trade publishers.
For me, the 2012 LBF was all about exploring my options and gaining insight into the rapidly changing publishing industry. One of the best seminars I attended at the 2012 LBF was on ‘Should the publishing industry be Frightened of Self-Publishing?’ It was the seminar that had the most impact on me because of one of the speaker’s – Alison Baverstock. She referred to self-publishing making the publishing industry more available and discussed how through her research she had found that there is an ‘empowered entrepreneur author’. I went on to buy two of her books: ‘Marketing Your Book; an author’s guide’, and ‘The Naked Author’.
Before I finish with the 2012 LBF, I thought I’d share some notes I made from a presentation in the Digital Zone given by Brian Felsen, President of Bookbaby. He said that distribution is not the problem; getting noticed is. Here is a list of points he made:
- Be authentic and consistent in your branding
- Have a strong call-to-action. Say what you want the person looking at your site do, e.g. buy the book.
- Have an email address on your website. You need to build a list and direct link with the reader.
- Traditional design principles still apply: layout, colour, and harmony of elements.
- Make sure you are visible and your cover looks good when it is the size of a thumbnail.
NOW TO THE 2013 LBF
It was three days of attending over a dozen seminars and presentations – not to mention the LitFactor Pitch ticket I had for the final day, where I would get to pitch my manuscript to a literary agent. For authonomy members you may have come across the LitFactor Pitch through Authoright and their presence on the authonomy website.
I spent the first day in the AuthorLounge and Authoright did a great job in curating the AuthorLounge and promoting the importance of authors within the publishing industry.
Mark Lefebvre, Director of Self-Publishing and Author Relations at Kobo, talked about enhanced ebooks and that much can be done in the digital space. A statistic I was not surprised to hear was that 88% of those reading ebooks also read print books. One bit of advice he gave was; write a good book, know your target audience, identify with them – and then you can begin marketing. He referred to Goodreads being prominent in North America and I learnt more from the next speaker: Patrick Brown.
Patrick Brown is Director of Community, Goodreads. You can check out the presentation in full at:
It was the first year that Goodreads had attended the London Book Fair and they were definitely an asset as they do play a part in discoverability of a book. They have 17 million members and members have written 23 million reviews. Patrick Brown pointed out that because we are losing the bookstore experience, as so many books are bought online, there is a need for recommendation.
Goodreads has an author profile page and some of the tips given were:
- Make author profile stand out (photo with a nice smiling face)
- Add a good biography
- List websites e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Blog
- Join online communities and make sure you check out the rules of that community
- Metadata is important and will influence how your book is found online.
A member of the audience mentioned the fact that Amazon had recently acquired Goodreads.
The seminar on ‘How To Get A Literary Agent’ was one I was looking forward to, especially as I had the fifteen-minute-slot on Wednesday to pitch my manuscript to a literary agent. Speakers included, Henry de Rougement, Media Manager at The Hanbury Agency and Charlie Brotherstone, literary agent at A.M. Heath.
There was a discussion about how agencies have changed over the years – Henry’s role at the agency is a good example of this. Henry talked about building an audience on social media so that when they go to publishers, there is not only a manuscript, but also an author profile with a fan base.
The job of an agent and agency has become more commercialised as they are now sending editors a package. Charlie discussed how, if he were considering a self-published author, he would look at online following, media interest and good sales.
I listened as the sequence of pitches of a manuscript were explained; the author pitches to a literary agent, the literary agent to an editor in a publishing house, the editor to the sales and marketing department of their publishing house. At this point I want to stop and add that I had heard at a number of seminar that there are times when an editor wants to take on a manuscript, but the sales and marketing department does not – and that’s it; the manuscript is rejected. So the sales and marketing department in a publishing house has a very strong voice.
Therefore, it is important as a writer to know where you sit in the market – and in a way place yourself in a box.
The point was also made about trends i.e. what editors are currently looking for. Apparently psychological suspense is a big area now as are YA books. Not particularly good news for me as my book does not fit within current trends, but I saw it as a challenge to think about the commercial hook for my book. I had some homework to do before my LitFactor Pitch session the following day.
The Self-Publishing seminar was next on my list with Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, Gareth Howard, CEO of Authoright and Jeremy Thompson, Managing Director of Troubador Publishing.
It was astounding to hear how Smashwords had taken off in a relatively short space of time. In 2008 they published 140 ebooks, in 2009 they published 6000 ebooks, in 2010 that rose to 28,000, the following year to 92,000 and in 2012 they published 200,000.
In Mark’s view, now is the best time to be an author. He referred to the traditional publishing model being based on print books whereby publishers were faced with much higher production and distribution costs. With the advent of ebooks the costs of distribution and production are dramatically reduced.
Jeremy stressed the importance of forward planning if you are self-publishing and not only thinking about editing/proofreading, but about cover-design and type-setting – and of course, discoverability. Have an author website because if you are a debut author and not a brand, then all the reader will know is the cover of your book and what you say on your website. Jeremy did say that the best marketing for your book is writing a good book.
Gareth gave some useful insight into the world of marketing for books. He referred to a book having a hook to give to the media. A member of the audience was keen on having her book in bookshops. Gareth pointed out shelf space is limited in bookstores, distribution with online stores is getting bigger for both print and ebooks and 75% of books bought from a bookstore come from the centre tables. Today I was reading a blog post by the writer, Jackie Collins on how she would hound her publishers about what they were going to do for her book once the book was published. She referred to most first-time writers looking for their books in a bookstore and finding it on the back shelf instead of a front table, not realising that their publisher had not paid for the front table display. Jackie Collins has decided to self-publish too, which I would not have understood a couple of years ago, but I do now because I know more about the industry – and the questions a writer should think about when deciding which route to take for a particular book.
‘The Future for Authors’ seminar with Kindle Direct Publishing was next on my list. Speakers included authors; Mel Sherratt and Tim Cooke.
I was not surprised to hear that, this quarter, over one quarter of best selling titles on Kindle, were from self-published authors.
The audience asked the authors about their journey to becoming best-selling authors on Amazon. Mel said that she was active on social media, particularly twitter, for two years prior to self-publishing. She had reviewed books by other writers and so when it came to her turn, she was able to rely on writers to review her book. A book she had found particularly useful when entering the self-publishing industry was, ‘Self-printed’ by Catherine Ryan Howard.
The final event of the day, in the AuthorLounge, was the book launch of ‘A Self-Publishing Service: The Alliance of Independent Authors Guide’. Orna Ross’s statement that it is important to ask the right questions so as to make an informed decision strongly resonated with me. She also went on to say that 2013 is a time in publishing for true strategic partnerships.
The following day I stayed for two seminars in the AuthorLounge before making my way to the conference rooms to listen to seminars that I had highlighted. An important thing to do before attending the LBF is pick the seminars and presentations you want to attend because there are hundreds to choose from.
‘The Book Marketing’ seminar reinforced some of the points raised in earlier seminars. The speakers were Gareth Howard, CEO of Authoright and Hayley Radford, Director of Marketing at Authoright.
The need to plan marketing and not rush it was emphasised; a three-month lead-time should be allocated. Book title and cover are extremely important marketing tools and everything should flow from that. Hayley was asked by a member of the audience about her role; she responded by saying that her job included contacting the media and helping journalists find content – and present the book in a way that will interest them.
Considering how crucial marketing is, it is important for authors to ask their publisher about marketing and have it set out in detail because often debut authors are allocated a small marketing budget; Gareth mentioned that it is not uncommon for the amount to be as small as £300.
The next seminar I attended was on ‘The New Demands On and Support for Writers’; it turned out to be the most highly-charged seminar I attended as sparks were flying between two members of the panel – Liz Thompson (Founding Editor, Bookbrunch) and Stephanie Thwaites (Children and YA Agent at Curtis Brown) The chairperson was Justin Somper and the other speaker was Sarah McIntyre (Illustrator, writer and comics creator).
Justin asked the panel how the changes in the publishing industry were effecting them.
Sarah said that 70% of her time is spent on publicity; she wishes it were otherwise, but it is something she has to do.
Stephanie referred to the growth of ebooks being a challenge in her line of work.
Liz stated that ebooks have changed the industry fundamentally and referred to the pressure on authors to perform through e.g. blogs. A comment she made that I found particularly interesting was that in the past authors had a chance to grow and publishing houses did not expect authors to be successful from book one. Now, authors don’t have as long to succeed. A point that proved to be contentious between Liz and Stephanie was Liz’s reference to a conflict of interest when publishing houses and literary agencies offer writing courses for authors; Liz stated that writers would spend money, often thinking they had their foot in the door by following such a course, when in fact that was not the case.
The following seminar was a fantastic, though-provoking and insightful talk on author brand; ‘Why Every Author Needs to Know Their Author Brand’. The speakers were Phillip Norman and Justin Somper (chair of previous seminar). It was an interactive session where we were given two sheets of paper. Following a discussion on identifying authors’ brands we were asked to list the common characteristics that define us and our book(s) – and to jot down three key points that represent us. We were then allocated time to share this information with each other. One of the authors I swapped information with was a writer who had a traditional publishing deal, but wanted to explore his author brand more closely.
Justin Somper made the point that as an author we need to have a clear message and our brand is the way in which we articulate our message. This seminar helped me enormously as I became more focused on who I am as a writer and key words representing my work. A relevant website is: www.authorprofile.co.uk
The final seminar I shall refer to is the one I attended on the last day: ‘Advanced Online Marketing For Authors’. The speaker was Joanna Penn, Founder of The Creative Penn & Author. It was great to meet Joanna after following her blog for a while. She is an inspirational speaker, full of energy, passion for her craft and shows an enormous drive to share what she has learnt on her author journey. I would strongly recommend checking out the seminar on www.TheCreativePenn.com/LBF13
Joanna discussed Amazon Algorithms and how important it is for authors to carry out research when choosing keywords to describe their books as some keywords attract a higher hit rate than others. Authors should crosscheck the keywords on www.adwords.google.com/keywordsTool and on Amazon’s search bar.
Joanna shared how she has seen this work with online sales of one of her books when she simply changed the metadata.
Collecting email addresses is also vital in marketing because you then have a mailing list to work with for your next book. At the back of each of her books she has a website. Having a static page is crucial so that readers can find the author and connect.
When questioned about the various social platforms, Joanna made the point that you should find the one you enjoy the most because you are more likely to stick to it; the advice she gave was – be authentic, be real, be you.
That’s the end of my notes, but before I go, I want to share my experience at the LitFactor Pitch. It was a fantastic opportunity to talk to a literary agent and get an insight into what a literary agent is looking for when considering a submission. My submission went well and the agent asked me to make a submission.
The LBF has equipped me with the information I need to make a decision about my manuscript, which does not mean that I would pursue the same course for each book. Now I know the questions to consider when deciding whether to follow the traditional publishing route, the indie route – or the hybrid author route. The rise of digital books has facilitated a range of possibilities, and at the heart of the transition within the publishing industry are the authors. Both Mel Sherratt and Tim Cooke spoke of how helpful and supportive other writers have been. This has certainly been my experience too as I engage with other writers on various social networking sites. True to Alison Baverstock’s research – there has been a rise in the empowered author entrepreneur.
I hope you have found the notes I have shared from the London Book Fairs useful and I would love to hear your thoughts.