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.





From Disneyland to Space

The half-term holidays were out of this world for the kids who attended my readings for King Billy and Royal Road last week at Leytonstone and Walthamstow libraries in East London.

We started by talking about the one thing we would wish for most if we had the chance.

One said a car, another a monster and one other wanted to go to France, which on further probing, I discovered really meant Disneyland, Paris!

It was interesting hearing the children’s thoughts and I explained to them that Billy in the story would’ve probably answered in one word: cake.

But would that make him happy?

We read some chapters from the book and I asked them again what their one wish would be.

It was fascinating how their responses changed, becoming more expansive and deeper as we considered how Billy’s feelings changed through the story.

The child who said they wanted to go to France decided instead that they wanted to go into space, which I thought was quite a transformation!

We then tried to write a poem using the same rhyming scheme as King Billy.

Turns out we had some budding wordsmiths in the audience, with my Leytonstone kids coming up with this (which made everyone laugh):


As some rock ‘n’ roller once said, you can’t always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need!