London Book Fair 2013 b

Getting up at 3am and to London at 7am, I somehow found myself inside Earl’s Court before it was officially “open” and had plenty of time to check out the lush spaces and marvel at the fact that this was the very same Earl’s Court where a teenage me threw up during a Radiohead show 10 years ago.

Feeling a little like the only man there not in a suit, I obviously wasn’t there to buy publishing rights, and settled in to the Authoright‘s excellent Author Lounge program of seminars, running back and forth between that the fantastic Love Learning Programme.


For all my photos from London Book Fair, check out this Facebook album!

With the focus clearly set on the future of authors and publishers, London Book Fair quickly set about dampening my loathing of digital literature and e-book platforms. While many from No, I Do NOT Have Too Many Books! might cry that I’ve fallen to the dark side, I’m starting to see the inevitable benefits of supplementing printed fiction with digital marketing- rather than letting one win out over the other.

But still, you can erase me from a Kindle. You can’t erase me from a bookshelf quite so easily.

Rightly acclaimed authors remarked how digital publishing had properly launched a career that they’d been working on sometimes for decades until then. The idea that “making it” in digital publishing is often accompanied by an exponential burst of popularity and success was repeated throughout the day, and is both exciting and daunting. Nothing good ever came without hard work.

It turns out that a lot of self-publishers and self-promoters do or did the legwork that I am currently doing. The only difference is they actually have a fully finished book or seven to promote to audiences.

I feel a little bit like my creative footprint is an empty measuring jug that gets bigger and bigger as I learn and network more, but until I lash myself to my drafts and hammer out their details that jug will never fill with water.

Great metaphor Nick, just great.

Suggestions of the suffering of genre fiction and the frictions between different genres has made me worry for my own diverse portfolio of “novels” but I keep telling myself that getting the damn things actually finished is more important than finding the right market for them.

I’ve mentioned before that book covers can often lead to novels flying under the radar, or onto the wrong radar, and I’m glad (or indeed sad) to see that this concerns the whole industry. Publishers are not as blind or ignorant as I may have suggested before, and regard cover art as one of the most important things when it comes to marketing a book.

I’m inclined to think that Crap Looking Books has been a little too vicious at times, too quick with reactions and too slow to ask why those reactions happen. It may be time for a considered reshuffle of the mission statement, and going a little easier on publishers and authors.

As my first day at London Book Fair rolled on I found myself learning to identify the difference between someone sharing wisdom or advice, and somebody trying to sell something. Yes, the guy from GoodReads was enthusasitic, warm and informative, but he was enthusiastic, warm and informative about GoodReads and could easily have been pitching it as a business pan to prospective investors.

Differences between various talk and seminar panels can be interesting- one may know very little about the craft while knowing a great deal about social marketing strategy, while some are drowning in rich advice on the craft, and utterly (and unashamedly) clueless to social marketing strategies.

Forgiving each panel their shortcomings feels just as important as benefiting from their knowledge, and forming a lattice of information from various sources is always much more efficient than expecting all the answers to be in one place.

Busy? What y’all know about busy?

With the afternoon Authorlounge inevitably over-crowded for theĀ  “How to Get an Agent” event I gave up and headed for a seminar on selling books and narratives to film and TV, a subject I know a great deal about already, and expected to be hear little new about. Of course I was wrong, and not only gained insight into the optioning process, but also found invaluable nuggets of information that will help guide where my screenplays and shorts are headed.

Screenplays, shorts, novels… ever feel like you’re running too many projects at once?

Anyway, I found myself repeatedly and randomly struck with ideas and changes for those existing projects, often totally irrelevant to the seminar I was sat in when they struck. Some of them were so blindingly obvious they’re almost embarrassing. I’ll get on with implementing them and let y’all everybody reap the benefits.

With all my talks and seminars done for the day, I wandered around for a while taking photos. Naturally people running booths are a bit apprehensive of having their displays photographed, but “it’s for a harmless book loving social network of six thousand people” went down unsurprisingly well and I found myself chatting away merrily.

Before you judge me, I was there!

Plugging Crap Looking Books turns out to be a little difficult… getting someone to let you photograph them for something with a title like that is not the easiest thing, though some awkward chats about the subject have already given me some ideas on how to boost the brand without damaging the content. Buzzword’d.

I was already convinced in a day that I would love to come back next year with a few final drafts and stronger brands under my belt, and really sell the hell out of myself.

Throughout all the digital platforms, multi-genre creativity, hype, pomp and circumstance… one mantra has been repeated in some form or another all day- The most fundamentally important thing is always the quality of the story itself.

Since I’d been on my feet for a good 12-14 hours, I took to my hotel to collapse and wait for the next day of booky goodness.

Read all about my second day at London Book Fair here!