London Book Fair 2013

When I decided to attend the London Book Fair, it did cross my mind that perhaps it was not the place for authors. I envisaged publishers and agents at every corner sweating over cold coffee and foreign rights contracts, suits and heels marching through aisles ready to scuttle anyone in their path as they blew on to the next meeting. With this idea in mind, I was sure that my sauntering and unhurried deportment would give me away as an interloper – an artist in the midst of commercial endeavor.

Indeed, as most writers do, I researched my decision to attend carefully and found many industry professionals proclaiming that the London Book Fair was no place for authors. How odd, I thought, surely without the author, there would be no books to sell?

When I arrived at Earls Court on the first morning, the sun was striking the white stone of the entrance. Despite my expectations, there was no queue and I quickly retrieved my pass and entered Court 1. The landscape of the event was stunning, each booth striking in its own way, bigger publishers displaying their importance with more floor space. There were plasma screens showcasing recent publications, glossy handouts and free canvas bags to lure the punter away from the crowds.

It was the digital centre in Court 2 that I gravitated towards. I wanted to hear what was being said on the ground with regards to the slow digestion of the traditional publishing world by digital publishing. For years, I have bemoaned the moaning about the threat to the paperback at the hands of the e-reader. For years, I have listened to the same arguments on what a travesty it will be when there are no longer tangible books to hold and how then we will all be sorry. As a business owner, I know the publishing industry can do better – can’t it? All businesses have to evolve with changing markets and I was on the lookout for a sniff of progression in the right direction.

It seems the solution is, according to a new creative force, the combined efforts of Authoright and LitFactor, to return the author to the centre of the industry. And here I was thinking, that that’s where we were all the time.

When I arrived at the AuthorLounge, I found it startlingly bright with white tables, white sofas, white chairs under white lighting. It was impossibly new-aged looking but the glare did not last long. It seemed I was not the only one interested in what they had to say. Within an hour, every white corner was packed with a body.

There were many interesting talks over the course of the day and most with one driving message, don’t neglect the author. Gareth Howard spoke on marketing and the use of social media and the feeling of connectedness the author should have with the entire process. Author, Nick Spalding was interviewed before a packed and avid audience. Spalding is a big celebrity with Indie or self published authors having succeeded to reach the dizzying heights of bestsellerdom without agent or publisher.

Amazon's createspace

The Lounge was positioned in good company. Just across from the booth was Amazon’s CreateSpace, the staff more than willing to talk through some of the benefits of their service. A little further up was one of the three Digital Theatres that hosted talks on self-publishing, changes to the publishing industry in relation to the digital world and more complicated conferences where I heard the speaker say, ‘html’ and then I scarpered.

Digital Theatre

Generally, I found the experience, immensely helpful and encouraging. The AuthorLounge was a fantastic hub and information trough for authors whether published, self-published or unpublished.

The day gave me a good insight into what direction the industry might take, whether that be publishing companies merging to discover new digital publishing solutions for their authors’ books, agents scanning the self-publishing charts for their next client or new initiatives like LitFactor and Authoright who strive to bring the author into the nuts and bolts of the industry. In the end, this is what seemed the most important, regardless of how publishers decide to tackle this challenge the author will need to learn some of the ropes, the day of the ‘reclusive author’ is gone, unless of course, you can make that your Unique Selling Point.


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