Vicky Newham

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Life after the London Book Fair

After the whirlwind of the London Book Fair it took me a few days to come back down to earth and settle into a routine again. I found the event informative, inspiring and highly thought provoking. It was also exhausting as I wanted to attend everything remotely relevant or useful. That meant back-to-back panel discussions, workshops, interviews and talks from 9.45 to 6pm, with no real opportunity to eat or drink.

One of the main things that struck me – as many of us have commented on – is how much publishing has changed and is changing, and how much opportunity is open to authors now that self-publishing is a credible and viable alternative to the traditional route. It really does seem that the stigma of self-publishing is beginning to fade, and with the amazing success stories of people like Colleen Hoover and SLAMMED (see here:, it’s not before time. This made me feel very positive. I like to feel that I have options. If Plan A falls through, there is a Plan B and C. And not consolation prizes in any respect. Real alternatives. And another appeal of self-publishing is the increased control which it gives the author.

However, the other message which rang through loud and clear was quite how much clout the sales and marketing departments of publishing companies have. I knew that a book had to be a commercial proposition … but not to the extent that it clearly needs to be now. This is the reality of the situation for those of us who would like to acquire a traditional publishing deal, and is not so encouraging. There was a lot to mull over on the way home and since then my brain has been buzzing with ideas, questions and information.

So, has LBF put me off wanting to get my books published? Or has it strengthened my resolve and commitment? Most definitely the latter. I’ve always believed that knowledge is a good thing, and I would prefer to know exactly what I am dealing with, particularly since I am entering a completely new industry. It will enable me to make the necessary preparations and – hopefully – do what is required.

Having wanted to write and be published since I was twelve, I still believe that the ‘agent route’ is right for me. Given how complex the rights structure is now in publishing – especially with multi-media developments – I believe I need the input of an agent. I would also like some editorial advice on my book before it gets sent to publishers (although I am considering getting a structural edit done).  My current book is the first novel I’ve written the whole way through. I am aware that this may not be the one that gets published. It may be the next one, or the one after that. But it just MIGHT be this one. Who knows? I can only give it my best shot, be optimistic, keep writing new material and work hard to improve my writing. I may decide to self-publish whilst I am waiting, and if I am unable to obtain agent representation, I definitely will do that.

At the risk of blowing my own trumpet, everything I’ve achieved in life has been off my own bat. I had a good education but everything else has come through hard graft, perseverance and sheer determination. Where doors have opened for me, it’s been because I’ve knocked on them at some point. Having given up teaching to write and study creative writing full-time, I’ve taken a gamble … and made a huge sacrifice to my income. Do I have what it takes? Will I be lucky? Who knows? Only time will tell. I firmly believe that if you don’t try things, you never know. I also believe that life is too short to want to do something … and not. It’s a steep learning curve at the moment. It’s scary. But it’s very exciting and without doubt the best decision I’ve ever made (apart from moving to Whitstable … but that’ll be the subject of another post).

Vicky Newham © 2013

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Insights from the London Book Fair 2013

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. Self-publishing is far more viable and credible than it was only a few years ago but authors must research options and implications carefully.
  3. Bookstores need to justify to consumers why they sell books at higher prices than online stores by adding significant value to the customer experience.
  4. 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.
  5. Publishers need to become multi-media content producers, especially as companies which do the latter are now becoming publishers.
  6. The role of the literary agent has evolved alongside market changes: rights’ structures have become much more complex for authors to self-negotiate successfully.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Both publishers and literary agents keep a careful eye on what’s selling on the digital book platforms.
  10. 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