After two hectic days at the London Book Fair, I wanted to reflect on what I’ve learnt … and then get stuck into finishing the re-writes of my novel so that I can start my submission to agents.
So, what are the main insights? Here I have summarised the views I heard expressed at the various talks, workshops and panels events I went to, and ones which seemed to re-occur. In places I’ve combined points made by my more than one person. I may write longer posts on each of these points in due course but for now this list of Top Ten points sums things up:
- It’s not ‘all about the book’; it’s a bit about the book, a lot about marketing, author brand, commercial viability, timing and luck.
- Self-publishing is far more viable and credible than it was only a few years ago but authors must research options and implications carefully.
- Bookstores need to justify to consumers why they sell books at higher prices than online stores by adding significant value to the customer experience.
- Publishers need to reflect on what they can offer authors now that self-publishing is such a viable and credible option for writers, especially regarding the nature of their terms.
- Publishers need to become multi-media content producers, especially as companies which do the latter are now becoming publishers.
- The role of the literary agent has evolved alongside market changes: rights’ structures have become much more complex for authors to self-negotiate successfully.
- The sales, marketing and multi-media departments of publishing companies are now involved prior to title acquisition, not afterwards, and have the final say over editors.
- Authors need to create a strong author brand and accept that they will be labelled … but they also need to be prepared to make changes to their perception of themselves and to their books.
- Both publishers and literary agents keep a careful eye on what’s selling on the digital book platforms.
- The 4 most common responses by publishers to manuscripts are: we don’t know what we’re looking for; it’s been done before; it hasn’t been done before; it won’t sell.
As a writer who is seeking a traditional publishing deal, and who is in it for the long haul, there is a lot to consider. I am still mulling over what I’ve learnt and would love to hear what other people in the industry, including readers, think about how things are at present.
One thing I haven’t wavered on is that my own personal commitment is to write the best book I can, and, linked to that, to continually challenge myself to be a better writer. I am going to borrow a motto from writer, Mark Leslie Lefebvre, and make it my mantra: ‘Fail fast, learn hard and move on’. And I shall attempt to do all three graciously and with kindness.
Vicky Newham © 2013