London Book Fair 2015

Or, A Drop In The Ocean

One of the earliest posts on this blog was after my sojourn to last year’s London Book Fair.  Well it’s that time of year again, only this time I popped along to all three days rather than just the one.

Held at Kensington Olympia, it was a wonderfully maze-like expanse of beautiful beautiful books (none of which were on sale to the likes of me – it’s an industry fair after all). Here’s the best cover I spotted:

Enough from Burt? Never!

Enough from Burt? Never!

Like last year, there was a dedicated ‘Author’ area slap bang in the middle of the labyrinth (where the minotaurs roam). Each day saw a series of 45 minute seminars and panel discussions on topics like tips on getting an agent, success stories from published authors and more general discussions on how authors are changing their writing to suit newer forms like Twitter.

I only went to the seminars I was most interested in, but that was still a hefty ten or eleven. There was a little variation in quality, but on the whole they were very well presented. I found a couple were either slightly mis-named (or perhaps they veered off topic at the beginning and didn’t recover) and one or two came across as marketing pitches for one or other e-publishing services. I suppose that’s the nature of this kind of event. There were great talks from representatives from The Bookseller and various agents, publishers, journalists and booksellers though, and served to give an interesting overview of a few different parts of the industry alongside decent practical advice.

I’m sure there were plenty of opportunities to network with other authors – just by hanging around and chatting with others at the Author HQ for example – but being an obtuse sort I used gaps in my schedule of seminars to meet up with a couple of editors I know of old and take foolish selfies.

A professional demeanor is key at these events.

A professional demeanor is key at these events.

Worth going to? Absolutely. I think a lot of what was covered in the seminars needs further research and, arguably, could be gleaned by decent research online in the first place, but I can put a few industry names to faces now, met a couple of other novice authors I’m going to try and keep in touch with and drank a fair bit of (pretty decent by exhibition centre standards) coffee. A good rebaptism into the publishing world, having had a couple of months of self-doubt. I’ll come on to that next time, but did you go to the Book Fair? Anything stand out particularly for you?


Everything Crossed

You make your own luck. But just in case…

No idea who these people are. That's how good my schmoozing was.

No idea who these people were. That’s how good my schmoozing was.

It’s been a pretty big week, so welcome to the latest in my series on trying to get published. Last time I talked about researching agents, and I have news: my aim when I started this series was to get my novel sent off to a batch of agents before Easter, and guess what? Success!

I realised on Wednesday night last week that I could poke and tweak and re-poke and re-tweak my query letter forever and still not send it off. All it’s supposed to do is introduce agents to the novel (and author) – when push comes to shove, the novel needs to speak for itself. And so I stopped poking and re-poking and instead sent my first batch of query letters out. And now I’m checking my emails every five minutes. No news yet.

One of the reasons I was so keen to get things out was that I was paranoid about sending things in during Easter week when agents might be off on their hols, so I successfully accomplished that. Unfortunately what I should have realised is that this week is the London Book Fair, so I’m pretty sure everyone in the entire industry is swamped. Oh well. There’ll always be a reason not to send something in and the agents I’ve picked all sound like they do, eventually, check all submissions. So we shall see.

Just checked my emails again. Nothing.

On the other hand, seeing as this week is the London Book Fair and I just happen to have a novel to a publishable (so says I) state, I booked a last-minute day off work and pootled along. With a stash of query letters in my bag, of course.

I’ve not been to one before and a lot of the really exciting things – pitch competitions and the like – need to be booked far in advance. There was however a dedicated authors’ area with a programme of brief panel discussions about the industry. That’s where I toddled off to for the first talk of the day, an intro to the publishing process with speakers from a bookseller, a big publishing house, an independent publishing house and, rather enticingly, an agent. Lots of handy things were discussed and I asked a question about simultaneous submission etiquette to the agent, Camilla Wray from Darley Anderson (answer: it’s fine, but let agents know what you’re up to). And right at the end as everyone was leaving, I pulled myself up by my bootstraps, introduced myself to Camilla and proffered her a copy of my query letter, synopsis and first three chapters. Which she took. It was busy, and many others were waiting to pounce after me, so I didn’t really say a massive amount, but hopefully the face-to-face contact will be a helpful reminder. I was wearing a distinctive stripy jumper and have ludicrous facial hair, so I’ll stick in her mind for better or worse!

I didn’t achieve much with the rest of my time there, but I was thinking of it in terms of a fact-finding mission ahead of going to more such events. Working out what goes on, what the etiquette is and so forth. Also, couple of free glasses of wine right at the end, so score!

And as of right now, five agents, all of whom I’m specifically excited about, have copies of my query letter, synopsis and first three chapters. Hopefully someone will ask for more of the manuscript but if not, in about five weeks time I’ll send the next batch of letters out.

So. Wish me luck. More soon.