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!
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?
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.
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!