Vicky Newham

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Insights from the London Book Fair 2013

2013-04-15 09.04.57

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

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The London Book Fair 2013

I am excited to be going to the London Book Fair for the first time this year. What clinched it was when I saw how useful the Author Lounge looks. This part of the event – which is new this year – has seminars, talks and panels going on for the three days on a range of topics related to writing, publishing and book-selling . Ones which caught my eye are: The Author Journey; Are Bookstores Here to Stay; Helping Readers Discover Your Books; How to Get a Literary Agent; The Challenges Facing Traditional Publishers; The Future of Literary Agents; and The Author as Entrepreneur. You can see the programme in full here: I haven’t found one session yet which I don’t want to go to!

The exhibition section, with all the usual stands and displays, will also be interesting to look round. I am looking forward to talking to other writers and creative people, to publishers and literary agents. With so much change occurring in the publishing industry, I want to get as well-informed as possible so that when it comes to making important decisions about my writing, I know what the options are and their various implications. It will also be wonderful to immerse myself in the world of writing and publishing for three entire days in a way which is very different from sitting at my PC writing my novel. If you see me there, do come and say ‘hello’.

Vicky Newham © 2013