The London Book Fair was, like last year, an amazing experience. We took a different approach this time by scheduling our meetings in advance rather than leaving things to chance. This meant that we got to talk with loads of interesting authors who are thinking about taking the plunge into self-publishing – or, in some cases, have already done so.
The Author HQ area was even bigger than last year, reflecting what we felt – that self-publishing is becoming a more and more popular proposition. Most authors would, naturally, still jump at a traditional publishing deal, but at the same time there’s a strong sense that more people are prepared to take matters into their own hands.
There are good reasons to do so. When you’ve spent months or years writing your book and knocking it into shape, you don’t want to wait several more years for a publishing deal that may or may not arrive. One author I spoke to had even been told that she might need to wait as long as fifteen years for the theme of her novel to come back into fashion! Why should writers be at the mercy of ‘the next big thing’? Anyone with artistic integrity who has got something to say wants to get their book out without any delays, and self-publishing enables you to do that.
It also means that you don’t have to compromise. I talked to someone who’s publisher wanted him to opt for a clichéd front cover. While there might be good reasons to do so – mainly to give readers a clear idea of what to expect – that wasn’t what he wanted.
With self-publishing, you can take control and choose the cover you want. Someone else had an agent recommend that she completely change a group of characters in her novel. OK, so professional advice is often good and useful (albeit sometimes conflicting!), but such a big change usually alters the mood and heft of the book completely, and if you decide against it, you should still have the option to get your work out to a wider readership.
Far from being the poor relation of traditional publishing, there are now more self-publishing options than ever, from services modelled on the familiar ‘publishing journey’ to more ‘pick-and-mix’ approaches like ours – and all of them take the DIY author seriously. Gone are the old vanity presses and whiffs of condescension. Now it’s all about people’s right to have their voices heard, and that’s a positive and refreshing feeling.
One of the big stumbling-blocks for the authors I spoke to this year was marketing. That’s one major area where people don’t want to cut costs, and rightly so. No matter how hard you’re prepared to work, nothing can replace personal contacts and relationships. I even chatted with some writers who had worked in marketing themselves, but they were still looking for an extra leg-up to help their book or series stand out from the crowd. If that’s something you’re interested in, please get in touch for a no-obligation chat!
I’m not much of a salesperson – the reason I enjoy the London Book Fair so much is that I can relax, be myself and just talk with writers about their work. This year I was accompanied by the great team of Vibz and Nina, and we certainly don’t stand on our dignity – I had my baby daughter with me this year (only a twinkle in my eye at last year’s fair), and conducted at least three meetings sitting on the floor! I hope most people we meet appreciate our honest approach and that our range of services and helpful attitude speak for themselves.
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