10 ways to make the most of London Book Fair
It’s nearly Spring, the daffs are blooming, and that means anyone who’s anyone in the publishing world is heading to Olympia for London Book Fair (LBF) from the 12-14 March.
For those unsure, LBF is a trade show where publishing industry wheeler dealers hang-out and do big business for three days – you’ll hear lots about ‘six- figure deals’ and ‘multi-way auctions’ especially on the first day.
Here are 10 tips to help new writers get the most from the Fair...
1 - PLAN
Twitter is a great place to see what's going on and which writers will be in attendance. Follow @LondonBookFair and check out #LBF19 for all the updates. Be sure to check out the schedule so you can plan which talks and events you want to go to ahead of time. Have your schedule nailed and you won't risk missing out on the most useful content for where you're at in your writing journey.
2 - DRESS TO IMPRESS
Look your best, sure - but also consider the fact you'll be on your feet all day.
It can get warm inside Olympia and there will be lots of walking, so leave your stilettos at home and boss the fair in your trainers or flats. I like to carry a journal. My A5 Moleskine is perfect for making notes, storing business cards and holding information I collect. Also, make sure your devices are charged – there are limited places to top them up.
3 - PREPARE YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH
Can you summarise your book in one or two sentences? This is your elevator pitch and you should be able to deliver it off the cuff, without a script, at a second’s notice, because you never know which important industry professional might be asking...
Include what your book is about, why you’re the best person to write it, and any other USPs you have, i.e. running a successful blog, creative writing courses, or particular expertise in your field. Repeat your pitch out loud until you’re confident. Try to avoid bigging yourself up too much. Don't tell people you're the next George Orwell unless that's actually your name. It can put people off.
4 - CHATTING TO PUBLISHERS
Publishing execs descend on LBF from all over the world. Many will have meetings with the UK's biggest publishers whose names you dream of seeing on the spine of your book. They have stands like film sets where they have their meetings. While this may seem like a great opportunity to go directly to the big guns with your amazing work, it’s honestly best to avoid this. Publishers have tightly scheduled meetings planned months in advance, so they're unlikely to have free time to have a chinwag.
5 - LITERARY AGENTS
Sadly, agents aren't at LBF to look at manuscripts – they are also likely to be tied up in back-to-back meetings, doing deals for the authors they already represent. This can mean they are a combination of moody, hoarse and quite possibly nursing a hangover! Seriously, they work out of a dimly lit windowless area at the fair known as The International Rights Centre. It’s best not to swing by and leave your manuscript on the tables – and don’t crash their meetings for a ‘quick chat’, it’s likely to discourage them from ever representing you.
However, there are two exceptions to this rule. Some agents will attend events in the late afternoons. I’ve met many over the years, including my own agent. You might get lucky and bump into your dream agent, and then...this is your chance! Go for it - give them your elevator pitch. Don't be too pushy - it'll put them off. If they express interest, play it cool and follow up via email a few days later.
Some agents will also take part in seminars. This is an opportunity to ask them questions, and if you’re quick you may be able to grab some one-to-one time at the end. Don't handover your manuscript - give them your elevator pitch and hopefully they will like the sound of it.
6 - NETWORK
There are stands for every aspect imaginable of the publishing process. If you're self-publishing, you’ll find everything you need to make your book stand out from the crowd whether published online or printed. Check out the Kindle Direct Publishing stand and seminar: Tuesday 12, 10.45 Author HQ.
Make sure your name badge is visible – don’t be surprised if you’re ‘eyed-up’ - but in a nice way. Your badge is the conversation starter you can use to speak to anyone.
The fair is a friendly place. Follow @BytetheBooks which has a networking event on Tuesday 12 March at 5.00pm; and @BookMachine – on Wednesday 13 at 4.30pm - both events in the Buzz Bar. Some writers print flyers or bookmarks with info about their books and bios, and hand these out which is a great way to break the ice. Publishers often have book launches or other drinks events on their stands. Don't be afraid to mingle - that's the whole point!
7 - TRAVEL THE WORLD
Many of the world’s publishers are grouped together at the fair by country. The people on these stands are extremely knowledgeable so if there’s a link to your book or you are thinking of writing a book set in that country have a chat with them. They often have people from government cultural departments on their stands and are sometimes visited by ambassadors and high-commissioners; and some of them have their own little soirees with drinks. Indonesia is the market focus country for LBF in 2019.
8 - STANDS
Don’t be put off by the closed-off stands of the big publishers. Head deeper into Olympia and you’ll find hundreds you can visit. Many of the independent publishers will be happy to have a chat about your work. I’d recommend my own publisher @TheMirrorBooks and if you’re into music, it’s always worth a visit to the @OmnibusPress stand– amazing books, fab graphics (AKA - a great place to take selfies). For any advice about pretty much anything to do with publishing I recommend the wonderful @Soc_of_Authors.
9 - SEMINARS AND TALKS
Seminars and talks are the highlight of the show for all writers. There are over 150 seminars over the three days across more than a dozen venues but bear in mind, they don’t get repeated. They cover all sorts of subjects but arrive early – especially if you want a seat. Lookout for ‘How to Make a Living from Writing’ (Tuesday 11.45, Author HQ), and ‘Making a First Impression’ (Tuesday 1.00pm, Author HQ)
10 - THE BIG GUNS
Keep your eyes peeled - your favourite literary heroes and heroines may be giving talks, or some will be making an appearance as news breaks of their latest deal. Keep an eye on the fair’s website to see who’s going as details emerge in the run up. There’s always a big name ‘author of the day’. So, plan, prep but most of all smile and enjoy all the fun of the fair.
Clifford Thompson is the author of Falling Through Fire published by Mirror Books.
Buy Clifford's book here>>