Friday 19 April 2013

The Alliance of Independent Authors at the London Book Fair 2013: United We Stand

I visited the London Book Fair on Monday and Wednesday of this week, a year on from my first visit for Orna Ross's launch of The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), which I blogged about here. ALLi is a wonderful organisation and is going from strength to strength: if you're considering self-publishing I can't recommend too strongly that you should join (there's a link button in the sidebar of this blog if you want to find out more).

Last year, ALLi launched in an upstairs seminar room far away from the hustle and bustle of the main Fair. This year we were down and dirty, on the shop-floor itself (though still somewhat ghettoised away from the Big Guys and the Big Publishing Stands). The Author Lounge was the focus of indie activity, sponsored by KDP, Kobo and Matador, curated by marketing specialists Authoright. A year ago, this would all have seemed ambitious. This year it became clear that maybe it wasn't ambitious enough - the lounge was heaving with people and it was obvious that authors are so keen to join the publishing party a space three times the size could easily have been filled!

The purpose of the Author Lounge was to give writers the chance to listen to talks and presentations - and even to pitch directly to agents. This is unheard of - agents inhabit the International Rights Centre upstairs: an elevator rises like a stairway to heaven from the midst of Earl's Court 1, but no humble scribbler should attempt to mount it. However, in these days of publishing flux and uncertainty (about which I'm writing a separate article), agents are descending from on high, publishing services are touting their wares to authors as well as publishers. Last year we had a toe in the door - this year we've crossed the threshold.

As well as attending talks and seminars,  networking proved to be a crucial aspect of attending the Fair. We all networked like crazy - and it's a process which is not only necessary but can be nerve-wracking. Orna, though, was the perfect hostess and match-maker, ensuring useful contacts could be made in an atmosphere of fun and friendship. I was able to present my newly-republished novel, The Chase, and information about my literary consultancy, Fictionfire, both to published ALLi members and to aspiring writers who're considering self-publishing.

On Monday, ALLi launched its new book, Choosing a Self-publishing Service - the title explains all! It gives advice about self-publishing and service-providers and will be updated regularly. Orna is very concerned to flag up warnings about providers who are out to scam newbie self-publishers and highlight those who provide an honest and trustworthy service. Guest-speaker C.J. Lyons, who's sold 1.3 million 'thrillers with heart' bellowed to the audience 'you're all CEO of your global publishing empire' with the same yee-haw verve that Joni Rodgers had when she told us at last year's launch that 'we're all riding the sand-worm, baby!' (And if you've never read Frank Herbert's Dune you'll have no idea what that meant!)

The crowded Author Lounge
The book-launch came on the heels of talks by representatives of Kobo, Goodreads, Troubador and KDP. I'd arrived fairly late and then couldn't get near enough to the talks to hear - as I mentioned, the place was overcrowded and I think nobody really expected the Author Lounge to be quite as spectacularly successful as it was.

Joanna Penn and Orna Ross at the party
The launch was followed by a party for ALLi members, sponsored by Amazon (!) at the nearby Pembroke Pub - more networking in an atmosphere of excitement and nervous energy.

I didn't attend LBF on Tuesday but on Wednesday I turned up, carrying the new Kobo Mini ereader I'd bought after talking to Shayna Krishnasamy at the Kobo stand on Monday about my plans to publish to Kobo now that I've already published on Kindle. I attended a truly dynamic presentation by Joanna Penn on Advanced Online Marketing. Typically, her talk was full of honest personal experience, solid facts, statistics and up-to-date ideas. She focussed particularly on the importance of keywords and keyword research, talking also about the crucial need for us to have mailing lists and an established social platform. She discussed the 'marketing funnel' leading from attention, through interest and desire, to action. And she stressed the need to build relationships - this, I think, is a central theme of the Fair and of all our self-publishing activities. You can't do it if you lock yourself away. You need to put yourself out there. When I look back at the past five years of my career, everything I've done, every blog I've commented on, every writing event I've attended - everything has led to consequences and connections I couldn't have even imagined at the start. I'm busier and more tired than I can possibly say - but I'm also happier, in the sense that there's adventure and potential in it all and the fulfilment that only comes from being in charge of your own destiny.
Joanna Penn presenting 

Finally, there was a drinks party back at the Author Lounge (though the drinks, even the water, ran out too quickly!). I want to mention all the lovely people I met, old and new friends - and thank everybody who liked the cover of The Chase! First and foremost, there's Orna herself, who is the onlie begetter of the Alliance. I can't wait to see where she takes it in the coming year! Then Joanna Penn, of The Creative Penn (go there for oodles of publishing and marketing advice), the adventurous Dan Holloway, children's writer Karen Inglis, who gave me lots of practical advice. Roz Morris - I was sorry to miss her author presentation at the Kobo stand because I was at Joanna's talk - sorry! Writers Jerome Griffin and Rohan Quine; Stephanie Zia at Blackbird Books, who'll be bringing out my friend Jacqui Lofthouse's next novel; David Gaughrean; Mark Lefebvre of Kobo; Ben Galley and finally the lovely Catriona Troth of Triskele Books - my cover was designed by Jane Dixon-Smith who also designs the Triskele covers. Scroll down for lots more pictures!

Great people, a great Fair - and here's to a great future for us all!

NOTE: there's only four weeks to go until my next Fictionfire day courses! Book now for How to Plot and Pace your Story on May 18th and Perfect Pitch: How to Craft your Submission on May 19th. For full details and to make your booking go to the Fictionfire website. To find out more about The Chase, visit Amazon or the Fictionfire Press website. The novel is now out on Kindle and other ereader formats and a paperback edition will follow.

The moon over Earl's Court at the end of Day 1

Looking out over Earl's Court 2

The unique Dan Holloway

Catriona Troth of Triskele Books

One of the big guys ...

Crowds at the AuthorLounge

Joanna Penn, Brian Felsen of Book Baby and Orna Ross

Author Roz Morris, looking pensive!

With Joanna Penn: she's holding the cover of The Chase and I'm holding my Kobo Mini with her third novel, Exodus, on it

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