Thursday, April 10, 2014

London Book Fair 2014 - A Guide for People Who Are Not Publishing Professionals

The view from upstairs of some of the stands at the London Book Fair. Look! The Hachette stand has a flipping second level!

This week I went to my first ever London Book Fair, and I had a great time. I'm planning on writing more about my experience soon, but first I thought I'd give you some tips to help you decide if going to the London Book Fair is something that could benefit you.

Fact is, if you go to the London Book Fair, and you're someone who doesn't work in the publishing industry, all you can really do is go to seminars, or go to stands run by self-publishing companies and let them try to sell you stuff.

That said, the seminar selection was great. There are 250+ seminars and all of them are free to attend once you've registered. The majority of them are about very specific publishing issues, or are run by companies who want to sell publishers their product, but this year there was a whole track for authors, as well as education and children's publishing tracks.

I found enough seminars that matched my interests to more than justify the registration fee - it was £30 in advance or £45 on the day, which is an absolute bargain for the number of interesting seminars that I was able to attend. And I only went on two days!

But I am a blogger who is interested in YA and children's literature, and wants to be a author. I am open to the idea of self-publishing, and I also love learning about marketing. There was a lot that appealed to me.

I think the London Book Fair is most useful for a non-professional if you have more than one area of interest within publishing.

If you want to work in publishing but don't yet - go to the annual seminar about how to get into publishing, which is run by the Society of Young Publishers (who run lots of other events in London and Oxford, I've been to a few) and then as many others as you can. Knowledge is power and it makes sense to learn as much about the industry and the issues it faces as you can, if you want to be a part of it.

If you're an author who doesn't want to self-publish, and doesn't want to do much of their own marketing and publicity, I, and this is my own personal opinion, would say skip it, unless the programme is drastically different next year or whenever in the future you would like to attend. This year there were a couple of basic intros to the publishing industry aimed at authors, and two events for authors to speed-pitch agents, and that was pretty much it. Unless you have another interest or you're a fan of the Authors of the Day and really want to attend their talks, it's probably not going to be the best use of your time. Stay home and write and look at the workshops offered by Spread the Word and other organisations instead!

If you're an author who wants to self-publish, go, but unless you have another interest, you might not want to spend the whole three days there. There were several seminars about self-publishing and some of them were brilliant, others repetitive and samey. Also, please, before you go, read a book about self-publishing or do some online research so you don't become That Person who asks a really basic question during the Q&A time. There is a limited amount of time for questions and it's rare that everyone who wants to ask a question will get to do so. With a little advance preparation you can help everyone get more out of the seminar by asking more specific, advanced questions.

If you're an author who wants to be traditionally published but wants to get involved in marketing and publicity, go and attend a) all the self-publishing seminars you can and b) as many seminars that relate to the kind of books you write as possible. I don't think you'll get as much out of it as self-publishing authors will but at the very least you'll become more aware of current trends.

If you're a teacher, I'm not really sure how much would appeal to you. There are some seminars about inspiring kids to read and such. There are other events that are more tailored to your needs, but this one only costs £30/£45, so if you think there are enough seminars that interest you to justify the expense, go for it.

If you're a blogger, just a blogger, skip it. You might find a couple of seminars that interest you but most of them are likely to go straight over your head. Honestly, that happened to me a couple of times and I have all the interests I mentioned above! If you're a blogger who wants to work in publishing, consider it. Ditto if you're a blogger who is also a teacher or who wants to self-publish, et cetera.

As always, your mileage may vary, so think about the expense, look at the entire list of seminars, and decide whether you think it is worth it. For me, the expense was minimal. I live in London, so I didn't need a hotel room, and in my current job, which I'm about to leave, I don't have to work Tuesday to Thursday, so it didn't cost me any holiday time. Next year, I will have to book time off if I want to attend, so I'll have to think more carefully about it.

Have you been to London Book Fair? What did you think? What advice would you give? Do you think you'll go again?

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