London Book Fair used to be an exclusively trade event (authors were actively discouraged from attending by publishers who feared being bombarded with submission for their slush pile). However, things are changing (albeit very slowly). This year, we went to London Book Fair, not only to meet the biggest retailers, distributors and printers in the world, but also some very switched-on authors that saw London Book Fair as an opportunity to learn from and network with publishing’s movers and shakers.
The heat of the action centred around the Author HQ, which ran a range of free seminars where experts from all areas of the publishing industry shared their knowledge and had their brains picked in lively Q&A sessions. We live tweeted from a lot of these sessions and have distilled all of the points made into 10 easy to digest take-homes below.
Top 10 London Book Fair Take-Homes
- “Create a marketing plan. People need to see your book cover seven times before they recognise it,” bestselling author, Rachel Abbott, encouraged authors to get organised.
- “Self-publishing doesn’t mean publishing by yourself,” Karen Healey Wallace shared her experience. “The truth is it’s a beauty pageant,” she explained. In a beauty pageant, all the girls are pretty and all the girls have teams behind them, from nail technicians to hair stylists – professionals that get every little detail right.
- “Follow other authors on Twitter. See how they engage with their readers,” Kindle Bestseller Panel. If you don’t know where to start with Twitter, follow authors in your genre and see how they do it.
- “Decide which of the 3 Rs is most important to you: Readers, Revenue, or Respect,” Karen Healey Wallace. Whilst one may naturally lead to another, work out which one is most important to you and what you want out of your publication.
- “Separate the fragile creative from the thick-skinned promoter to keep learning,” Cathy Rentzenbrink, reviewer at The Bookseller, spoke about how authors need to wear many hats and have different attitudes for different parts of their job.
- “If the cover’s not right, you will find it hard to get media coverage,” Tory Lyne-Pirkis of Midas PR warned authors how important the cover design is when pitching to the media (regardless of the quality of the writing).
- “If the cover doesn’t look good, it makes no sense for booksellers to read or stock the book,” Cathy Rentzenbrink (who worked for Waterstones for 10 years) explained that booksellers need to make commercial decisions and they simply cannot persuade their customers to look past a bad cover because the story inside is really good.
- “Social media is not about selling books, it’s about connecting with the book trade,” Casey Keller, bestselling self-published author told writers not to overlook the power of Twitter when it comes to forming relationships with bloggers, bookstores and more.
- “99p can be too cheap… Have confidence in your work. Don’t undersell yourself,” Keith Houghton, self-published bestseller warned authors not to sell themselves short and reminded them that readers who really want to read the work will pay a decent price and be more likely to give the work a good review than someone who just bought it because it was cheap.
- BookTubers have a serious influence. Big trade publishers and authors alike need to realise and harness the power of a good video book review.
So there you have it. The best London Book Fair tips from journalists, publicists, booksellers, and of course, best-selling self-published authors. We hope to see lots of you there next year.