I attended the London Book Fair (LBF) last week for the very first time.
While this kind of thing is a great opportunity for the publishing industry to meet and greet, announce new business and the like, I wasn’t sure it would be much use to an author.
But I was pleasantly surprised.
The organisers set up a strand aimed at writers called Author HQ, which hosted many interesting discussions, including ‘How to Find and Work with a Literary Agent, ‘Why We Commissioned These Debuts’ and ‘The Agony and Ecstasy of Becoming a Self-Publisher’.
For someone like myself, without the backing of a traditional publisher, the sessions provided a welcome window on an industry that can appear frustratingly opaque.
That said, I was still left with the feeling that despite the various panelists’ well-intentioned advice, success in the publishing game is down to luck.
a half-blind industry, lurching from one trend to another…
Agents, editors and publishers have no real idea what stories, formats or genres will sell in 18-24 months’ time, the horizon over which new works are planned for publication.
This leaves a half-blind industry, lurching from one trend to another in search of the Next Big Thing, which often looks a lot like the Last Big Thing.
So how should writers respond?
I think the Waterstones’ Children’s Laureate, Lauren Child said it best, speaking at one of the events:
“Don’t worry about trends. Try to find something new and invigorating.”
And that’s my take-away from the LBF.
See you next year.