A Writer’s Take on the London Book Fair


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.





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