Reflections on the London Author Fair – part 1

The London Author Fair on the 28th Feb 2014 attracted about 300 writers and other publishing industry folk. Many were like me ? experienced self-publishers looking for tips and advice as well as the chance to network ? others ranged from those new to writing to traditionally published authors. LAF had claimed to offer something for us all. The schedule was packed, with attendees choosing from four concurrent seminars or workshops every hour. My reflections on the sessions I attended follow but this is not a full write up; I didn”t make notes about the things I already knew or disagreed with! One thing all the speakers and attendees agreed on though is that publishing is changing and it”s changing fast. Everyone, including writers, needs to stay informed to be able to react to opportunities. LAF certainly helped me with that. In this first post I review what I heard about publishing as a business.

Seminar ? Author Entrepreneur: Why Your Book is Your Startup

Chair: Porter Anderson Speakers: Eileen Gittens (Blurb CEO), Gareth Howard (Authoright CEO) I was interested in this session because I take self-publishing seriously and do see it as going into business, same as any other publisher. The panel here agreed, saying that as an author entrepreneur you should identify your skills gaps then build an experienced and competent team around you who plug those gaps to ensure you produce a high quality book. The notion of crowdfunding for books was discussed as it can build an audience as well as generating funds for the project. It”s not something I feel comfortable with though as it requires all the marketing up front before you can show anyone what they”d be getting. Perhaps it would be more suitable for authors with a longer track record than mine? One thing I agreed with was that in any business, not just putting a book out, you need to be clear what success looks like for you so you can determine your priorities and identify what support you need. I want to produce a quality book which will be enjoyed by readers. So I have to invest (time and money) in everything from editing to marketing. A key point made was that the author entrepreneur needs to understand who their audience is.

Seminar ? The Business of Books

Chair: Philip Jones (The Bookseller), Speakers: John Thompson (academic), Suzanne Baboneau (Simon & Schuster), Simon Skinner (Neilsen), Holly Bennion (Wiley) The panel each spoke for a few moments about how they currently perceive trends in publishing: Simon Skinner said Neilsen figures show increased sales in Children”s, YA & Educational books with a small decrease in Adult Fiction. Non-fiction remains the largest part of the market. Women buy more books overall. Men are more likely to be e-book only purchasers. Print only adults tend to be in the A/B or E social classification. Holly Bennion spoke about the importance of being able to drive revenue from content in other forms such as licensing different channels. Book sales alone are rarely viable for publishers of non-fiction. Wiley see around 60% of their sales through Amazon. The ways people discover books tends to be emotive eg a recommendation from a friend or reading a review. They then go online to shop. HB”s decision to commission a non-fiction book is based on: the author being an expert with a brilliant book/unique content; that she knows who”s going to buy the book; that the author has an established presence/platform. She says that publishers then amplify that platform and polish the book. Suzanne Baboneau mentioned that publishers do look at the Amazon bestseller charts to find successful indie authors, but more so from their US office. In the UK they have less resource for that type of discovery. Look out for more of my reflections on the day – in which I hear from literary agents and the heroes of any story – the authors. Katharine D”Souza