So on the 28th February 2014 I went to the London Author Fair. I woke up bleary eyed, fluey and slightly hung over so I wasn’t quite in the mood from the off. As I had to get out of bed at half past five I was feeling slightly surreal. I don’t normally actually get out of bed until after nine, sometimes even later.
I got the train from Bury St Edmunds to London with a lot of smartly suited commuters who were mostly male. How they do this every day is beyond me. Going to London is quite a big deal for me as I hardly ever leave Suffolk these days.
I arrived at the venue in Covent Garden late in spite of my early start. It is phenomenal how long it takes a person to get across London on the tube. After registration I stumbled upon a workshop which appeared to be about editing. There were several workshops going on in the same room so I couldn’t hear what the soft spoken lady was saying due to the loud voice of an American guy conducting another workshop nearby. This was bad planning on somebody’s part. I would say a workshop is only effective if there is a limit of about ten people. Any more and it is a lecture. There were about forty people trying to listen to this one.
On the upside there was free coffee. On the downside there was no free bottled water. In my previous incarnation I went to quite a few conferences and there was always bottled water on the tables. I am obviously not used to the roughing it writer existence yet.
Downstairs in the studio there were seminars which were proper lectures with enough chairs, microphones, a stage and everything. This was a much more professional setup so I decided to hole up down there. There were presentations from publishing types, mostly trying to sell you something to do with self-publishing. By the time the distribution seminar came round I was seriously bored and felt I hadn’t really learned anything much. A lot of information is freely available on the internet for anyone to read. I was starting to feel as various business people pitched their platforms that I was at a paper clip conference in Frankfurt. However, in Frankfurt there would have been a posh buffet lunch and a selection of mineral waters.
A highlight was a discussion about how to get noticed with Matthew Cain, previously of Channel 4 news and new novelist, and Adele Parks, who is a bestselling author. Matt’s advice was to get in the Daily Mail. I am not sure I am going to be able to do this without committing an illegal act of some kind! They were both entertaining and fun and I did learn something.
I did attempt another workshop at some point: Social Media Masterclass with the remarkably young looking Ben Galley who is a bestselling indie author. It wasn’t really a masterclass but more of a beginner’s guide. I already am quite adept with social media. Oh yes I have suffered the death threats, argued about feminism, fallen in love with unsuitable almost famous people, fallen out of love with them and so on. I feel I am becoming something of an old hand. A menopausal lady next to me muttered darkly that it was all right if you were a whizz kid. I did feel she was missing the point as social media is so incredibly easy even I can do it. Make your fans into friends was Ben’s sage advice. I would do that if I had any fans Ben!
By five o’clock I was flagging and felt very ill so I left early and didn’t stay for the after party schmooze. I should have been networking of course but I am far too misanthropic when I have a cold. The seminar room wasn’t warm enough.
It’s all about the book. No shit Sherlock!
Publishing is in a state of flux, some would say crisis.
Those successful in self-publishing are regarded as outliers.
Most people are still trying to get an agent and go the traditional route.
There is a slight air of manic desperation about many wannabe authors.
I am sure it was very useful to many people and it was good to see people in the flesh who I have only read about.
Would I go again?
At over ninety pounds a ticket? Frankly no.
I shall carry on with my magnum opus in quiet obscurity though I am tempted to punt a few short erotica novels on Kindle for the fun of it. I might get a day job in the paper clip industry. Who knows?