Saturday, 12 April 2014

London Book Fair 2014: It's What You Choose to Make It, Really - Part 2

On Day 2 of the London Book Fair (see my previous post for Day 1) I attended the 'Hallmarks of Self-Publishing Success' seminar, presented by Orna Ross of the Alliance of Independent Authors and best-selling authors Rachel Abbott and Polly Courtney. Rachel told us she didn’t think that ‘books are successful by accident. You need a plan.’ She stressed that the difference between self-publishing and trade publishing is that the trade publishers market to booksellers and self-publishers market direct – to the reader. Orna emphasised building a relationship with readers over time. Polly recommended that you ‘get people involved right from the start.’ When Dan Holloway asked about their greatest failures (because we all learn from failure, right?), Polly said it was having had an amateurish cover for her first book, Rachel said that she had had her book proofread but not structurally edited – which I think is a brilliant point to make. All too often writers think that if the apostrophes are in the right places and the spelling is OK, the book is fine. Not so – the shape and flow of it, the engagement the reader is likely to have with it, need to be addressed too. This ties in with what Orna went on to say – that ‘most of us publish too soon’. All too understandable in our desire to reach out to the reader. ‘The great thing,’ she added, ‘is we go back and re-do.’ Online publishing gives us that chance to hone and perfect our work, even after initial publication.

Roz Morris, Catriona Troth, Jane Davis, Gilly Hamer,
 Jane Dixon-Smith, Dan Holloway
In terms of publicity, blog tours weren’t seen as all that useful – and they’re expensive - but guest-posting or hosting interviews and guest-bloggers on your own blog were. Orna stressed the importance of getting our metadata right – our keywords and categories, to make our work more visible. (I know! I know! But try slotting a book like The Chase into any other category than ‘literary fiction’!) Polly reminded us that many writers believe the myth that if you get a trade publishing deal, then ‘proper promotion’ will be done for you. Orna, who had worked in publishing for 20 years, wasn’t even allowed to attend the marketing meeting when Penguin were publishing her! Yikes! Both she and Polly had seen their books go out into the world with the wrong covers, the wrong marketing approach – how much better, then, to be in charge of your own creative destiny? Orna and Rachel said we need to define our terms of ‘success’ – do we mean financial/commercial success? Do we mean creative success? Do we mean connecting with the minds of readers? Orna’s final piece of advice was to write two sentences defining your idea of success.

The HarperCollins stand at LBF
After that seminar, I had a lovely chat with Helen Hart of Silverwood Books, then it was time to leave. (There was another day of the Fair left but I wasn't attending). Ironically, just when I’ve got the hang of the layout of Earl’s Court they've decided to move the Fair to Olympia next year! 

Celebration at the King's Head
The day wasn’t over yet, though, for Amazon was celebrating the launch of ACX audio publishing in Britain with a party at the King’s Head pub nearby (though I still got lost trying to get there – sorry, Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn, who had to toil along with me!). The joint was jumping – not only food, drink and great fellowship, but a special showcase table for ALLi authors and rousing speeches from Orna and from Joanna Penn. Also, an incredibly diverse range of readings from ALLi members – Dan Holloway, Jessica Bell, Jill Marsh, Paul Murphy and others.

Gillian Hamer and Jane Dixon-Smith
I was delighted to meet the lovely Triskele authors again – Catriona Troth, Gilly Hamer, Jill Marsh and Jane Dixon-Smith, who has just published her second novel, The Rise of Zenobia. The Triskele writers have produced an excellent guide to self-publishing, The Triskele Trailand Jane is also the brilliant cover designer for The Chase and the collection of short stories I'm publishing next, Informed with Other Passions.
Jill Marsh, Rohan Quine and Gilly Hamer

Around nine, though, in the immortal words of Wallace and Gromit, the bounce had gone out of my bungee. Time to say goodbye all round and totter off to the train back to Oxford. LBF14 in some ways wasn’t as exciting as LBF13, and maybe this is because the self-publishing community is consolidating its position, surveying its tract of hard-won ground, looking ahead to further struggles and further triumphs. The main thing – and the uplifting thing – is that we are all in this together and we are all giving each other a helping hand. Which is brilliant.
The authors' showcase table

Fictionfire upcoming Focus Workshops: Parents and Children April 26th; Share and Support May 17th 

For details of all of these and how to book, visit the website at 

Previous London Book Fair reports: plus and


Debbie Young said...

Great post, Lorna, and thank you for sharing all that you gleaned from the seminars. As someone who spent almost the whole of my time at the Fair just talking with other authors and publishing partners, rather than attending whole seminars, I am very grateful for the low-down on the best talks!

Lorna F said...

Thanks, Debbie. I'm afraid that I missed out on most of the seminars this time round so I'm looking forward to reading other people's blogs and comments too!

Kevin Booth said...

A great post! We all seem to get such a different experience at the LBF. I spent a lot more time at the literary translation events this year, as well as talking to and getting to know other author publishers. I particularly agree with your comment: "LBF14 in some ways wasn’t as exciting as LBF13, and maybe this is because the self-publishing community is consolidating its position, surveying its tract of hard-won ground, looking ahead to further struggles and further triumphs."

Lorna F said...

Thanks Kevin - glad you enjoyed the post. Yes, there seems to be a range of experience of LBF. How did you get on at the literary translation events? Are you going to blog about that, maybe? The area I feel I haven't paid any attention to myself is that of rights.