The London Book Fair – Impressions of a first-timer

Me at the Choc Lit stand LBF 2013

Me at the Choc Lit stand LBF 2013

This week, for the first time ever, I attended the London Book Fair which ran from the 15th to the 17th of April, at the Earls Court Exhibition centre. The fair, which is absolutely huge (although not as big as the one in Frankfurt, I’m told), is laid out over two exhibition centres, or courts, with literally hundreds of exhibitors.

The Choc Lit stand was a small section of the IPG stand (Independent Publishers Guild) next to Bloomsbury, where unlike us they had a cosy set-up with tables and chairs. After standing up for the best part of two days (a killer on your back and feet) I was very tempted to ask them if I could pretend to be one of them for a while!

The Bloomsbury stand

The Bloomsbury stand

But the biggest kid on the block was the conglomerate Hachette, which was spread over two massive stands with a central walkway between them and large posters of their star authors. When looking at posters like that, you can’t help wishing that it’s going to be you up there one day. It might never happen, but it’s okay to dream, isn’t it?

The Hachette stand, to give you an idea of scale

The Hachette stand, to give you an idea of scale

From other authors attending in previous years I’d heard that the book fair is really only for publishers and agents, and that they don’t like authors to be there. I must say, that wasn’t my impression at all. Instead it seemed very author-friendly and included an author lounge as well as many talks and seminars aimed at authors, including the growing interest in self-publishing.

Of course agents and publishers don’t want to be pestered by aspiring authors. They’re here to negotiate deals etc. and are incredibly busy, but a polite enquiry after submission guidelines, if available, is fine, or you can pick up a leaflet or even take photos of books on display as a useful guide to what a particular publisher is looking for.

But authors also “talk shop” – we talk about covers, editing, deadlines, sales, etc. – and generally love any opportunity to catch up with what other people are doing. I met up with Alison Morton, Victoria Lamb, and Liz Fenwick, and also the New Romantics 4, a co-operative of writers who’ve decided to go down the indie route and self-publish their books. We had a very useful chat about social media and how it can help writers promote their books, and they seem to have had great success.

New Romantics 4 - from left to right: Lizzie Lamb, Margaret Cullingford, Adrienne Vaughan, and June Kearns

New Romantics 4 – from left to right: Lizzie Lamb, Margaret Cullingford, Adrienne Vaughan, and June Kearns

I was also at the fair with my translator’s hat on (in my “day job” I work as a translator from English into Danish), sat in on a couple of talks at the Literary Translation Centre, and met with other translators. Like writing, translation can be a very lonely occupation, so making contact with like-minded individuals is both reassuring and helpful.

But the best part was when fellow Choc Lit authors Sue Moorcroft and Christina Courtenay spotted a picture of “The Elephant Girl” on a Star Books Sales poster (the sales distributors of Choc Lit books). This made me feel I had finally arrived!

The Elephant Girl on the Star Books poster

The Elephant Girl on the Star Books poster

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30 Responses to The London Book Fair – Impressions of a first-timer

  1. Sounds like an amazing experience. I’m hoping to make it next year 🙂 x

  2. Carol Hedges says:

    Oh, I soo wanted to go!!! But neither my mean old publisher Usborne nor my mean agent invited me!!! You all enjoyed yourselves so much! Next year, I shall round up a ‘we weren’t invited but we’re still going, so there’ crowd and come down!! See you there!!! XX

    • Lizzie Lamb says:

      Life’s too short to wait for an invitation, Carol. We just went along under our ‘own steam’, having neither a publisher nor an agent to worry about. If the door is closed, bang loudly enough on it – it usually opens. See you there next year – Lizzie et al.

  3. How exciting to actually see your book there. Well done, and it was good to meet up with you.

  4. We had tables and chairs in the Ellora’s Cave booth! It was a great experience, and I enjoyed it very much. Lovely to see you, too. I don’t think I could have stood for all that time!

  5. helenphifer says:

    It all sounds very exciting and probably quite overwhelming I would think, but it would definitely be a great experience to talk about 🙂

    • It was a bit overwhelming, actually. You definitely feel like a very small fish in a massive ocean, but it’s exciting too because it has it’s own language which we can’t fully appreciate unless we’re engaged in writerly pursuits ourselves.

  6. janicecairns says:

    I am so glad you wrote this post, Henriette, I’ve been curious to know what the London Book Fair was like. I couldn’t manage to get there this year but I’m hoping to be a first timer there next year.
    Your post was interestingly written, gives me a good idea what the fair is like and I am really looking forward to going there in 2014.

  7. lizharriswriter says:

    I was so sorry to have missed it, Henri. I shall definitely go next year.
    Liz X

  8. It all looks like tremendous fun – and far more sociable than I expected. Well done for staying the course, Henri, it sounds very hard on the feet!

  9. Janice says:

    What a wonderful experience. Great post and super photos, Henri!

  10. Christine Stovell says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience of the LBF, it’s good to get the inside view. Hope the feet and back recover soon!

  11. Liz, Carol, and Sorcha – Hope to see you there next year! Hx

  12. Very interesting, Henri. I knew nothing at all about it so loved seeing it vicariously through your eyes!

  13. lizfenwick says:

    Hi Henri. It was great to see you there! Brilliant to see your book on the poster…can but dream!

    lx

  14. Rhoda Baxter says:

    Thanks for this post Henri. I’ve been curious about it too and it’s great to hear a first timer’s view. Congrats on Elephant Girl being featured on the poster. What a lovely surprise to get!

  15. Margaret Cullingford says:

    LIzzie, June, Adrienne and I thought it a great experience, Henriette, and we were encouraged by the response of those professionals we approached – Nielsens, Gardners, the book distribution company, our local Matador publishing company, eBook distributors. We thought we’d be Cinderallas but weren’t made to feel we were. And of course it was lovely to meet up with you and have a chat.

  16. suefortin says:

    It was my first time attending too and I found it to be more author friendly that I had thought. Good to have a catch up and a sit down! S.x

  17. Lizzie Lamb says:

    We (myself, June Kearns, Adrienne Vaughan and Mags Cullingford) missed quite a few people on the Tuesday as we went round taking it all in. It was lovely to see the Choc Lit stall and chat with RNA friends. A couple of other authors were there and we kept texting but didn’t manage to meet up with them. Glad that we were able to touch base, Henri, and thanks for posting the photo of us all together. See you at the summer party.

  18. Thanks, people, for your comments. It was lovely to catch up with some of you, and I hope to see many more of you there next year. Hooray for mobile phones – without them it’d be totally impossible to meet up, it’s really that big!

  19. nikkigoodman says:

    Great post Henri,thanks so much for sharing.I might try and get there next year… Hope your feet are recovering nicely! Lovely to see your book out and about, and congrats on the Joan Hessayon nomination.Good luck.
    Nikki x

  20. Sounds fabulous, Henri. I’d never considered it before, but perhaps next year? 🙂 Hope your feet have recovered x

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