Friday, April 24, 2015

Linda Chamberlain: In a stream of consciousness…

We welcome Linda Chamberlain to the blog to tell us about her first visit to the London Book Fair,   what she saw and the (RNA) people she met.


Olympia is a cathedral. High ceilings, masses of people and for three days it is full of books. The old fashioned kind, with covers, some of them hard, glossy and expensive. People, smartly dressed, selling books. Not to readers, though. The London Book Fair is a giant sale of rights - film rights, foreign rights, audio - and it feels a million miles from my lap top, lying idle today. It’s not Ideal Home crowded, but it’s busy and I remember my instructions. A programme. I spot someone giving out maps at the entrance. I’ll need one of those, not that they help me on the M25.

No programme to be found. Clueless, never been before, I throw myself straight in, wandering the aisles. The metaphor changes – Olympia is a giant oak and writers are the acorns. Some have sprouted; others might be waiting to spill their insides to the world. Plenty are here. Some of them I know. A hug from Elizabeth Jennings who runs the Women’s Fiction Festival in Matera, Italy. I must go there again, she says. There’s Freida Lightfoot with Alison Moreton, RNA members both.
There are books on the Accent Press stand from some of our clan. Stop for a chat, it’s going well. Exhausting. Exciting. Lots of interest. Show my indie-published book, leave my card; take the submission guidelines since you never know. Searching for the press office but find Author HQ with its chance to sit down and listen to speakers. The digital age is more apparent here. Giving advice are a poet and a novelist who strut their stuff on Twitter. The poem that was spread over a few Tweets makes me smile. Brevity is expected from the novelist. A murder, surely, in the first 140 characters but no, this sounds like a book with a slow build.

Not waiting to find out how many readers he gains, I’m drawn to the Amazon stand nearby. More chat; good advice. So strange to see smiling faces behind this publishing giant.

Back at Author HQ a crowd forms for a talk on marketing and PR by Tory Lyne-Pirkis from Midas PR and Bethan Ferguson of Quercus. Out comes the notebook.  The advice is strongly pitched to indie publishers – get the cover right, get busy on social media, connecting to other people rather than trying to sell books. Join NetGalley, the cost is small and people there will review your book.
The trade stands that are full of children’s books seem a world far removed from such thoughts. The impression is an illusion since all books need a push in the right direction. The beautiful pictures, the colourful covers are a feast. The digital device in my bag is a useful but monochrome poor relation.
Another sit down; another talk. Diego Marano, UK manager of Kobo Writing Life, has some startling information. Research has shown that about 60 per cent of readers get to the end of a book they’ve downloaded. He proudly introduces Casey Kelleher whose grit-lit books on Kobo achieve an 82 per cent finish rate. She had no agent or publisher when she started out and writes crime in a stream of consciousness. Unusual and inspiring, think I’ll do my own version for this blog…

Making my way out of the building at the end of play I bump into Sue Moorcroft with Pia Tapper Fenton who both seem more enlivened than me. They’d had a good day, good talks – one of them at English PEN which campaigns internationally for the freedom to write without censorship.

I pick up a programme before I leave. They weren’t hidden. Next time I’ll get it right…!

I spoke to NWS member, Catherine Miller about her day at the London Book Fair and the The Write Stuff event:
The Write Stuff event was the London Book Fair equivalent of Dragon’s Den and when I entered my novel Baby Number Two, I never thought I would end up being one of the ten finalists. After my warm-up gigs having only been to the delight of my twin toddlers, facing four judges (Mark Lucas, Toby Mundy, Lorella Belli and Alison Jones) and a large audience thanks to the open stage was a tad daunting. Fortunately the practice paid off and my pitch went as well as can be expected given the immense amount of pressure. The feedback from the judges was both encouraging and helpful, not just for me, but for all the finalists involved. And afterwards it was lovely and surprising to have strangers come up to me and ask where they could buy my book. Would I do it again? Undoubtedly. Would I encourage others to enter? Definitely. Would I do anything differently? As Tony Mulliken, Chairman of Midas PR, who presented the event pointed out, I should have taken the twins. 

Thank you, Linda and Catherine.

The RNA Blog is brought to you by, 
Elaine Evererest & Natalie Kleinman 

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Natalie Kleinman said...

What a great insight. I could feel the Olympian atmosphere leaping off the page. Thank you, Linda, and thank you Catherine. Love the idea of taking the twins

Anonymous said...

Writing that fair gallops along. Most enjoyable, Moya

Rhoda Baxter said...

Sounds manic but interesting. I've always assumed it wasn't for writers, but things have clearly changed.
Thanks for the insight Linda.

Alison Morton said...

As a fourth time visitor to the LBF, I can confirm it was as noisy, big and bustling it always was was. But I felt a shift a little further towards the author that has been increasing each year.

However, it's essentially a trade fair for selling rights and the author element is still an add-on. Some would be authors thought it was the place to 'bag' an agent. Er, no. They are too busy selling their existing clients' rights.

But for learning, networking and fringe events, as well as feeling you are touching the pulse of publishing, there's nothing quite like LBF.

Elaine Everest said...

Thank you for covering the LBF for us, Linda. I wish I could have been there. x