London Book Fair – What I Learned (Part One)

I had a very busy few days at the London Book Fair from 15-17 April 2013. If you had asked me to go to it a couple of years ago, I would have hesitated. But with a book published and the Alliance of Independent Authors pushing for more authors to attend the fair, I decided to give it a shot.

alliance of independent authors

I was pleasantly surprised at the choice of talks and workshops for authors. I would say that it was mostly indie (self published) authors who attended in their droves and some traditionally published authors who had been dragged along by their publisher or book publicist. The feeling at the London Book Fair was double-edged.

London Book Fair

In the Author Lounge – a space that was kindly sponsored by Amazon, Kobo and Matador, and curated by Authoright – the place was buzzing with eager to learn professionals, laptops and iPads at the ready to take notes. This was also the place to network, meet other authors, share experiences, chat with industry experts such as Kobo, Lit Factor and Matador. I was told Amazon reps were there (the Createspace and KDP stand was nestled in the Digital Zone, feet away from the Author Lounge) but they never mingled as far as I could tell. On the other hand, Mark LeFebvre from Kobo seized the opportunity to collaborate with eager, intelligent and savvy writers/authors.

Others did not. I was not surprised.

Beyond the heaving walls of the Author Lounge were multiple publisher stands; Harper Collins, Hachette UK, Bloomsbury etc… If the sight of such publishing giants makes you go weak at the knees, then I’m about to burst your bubble. The attitude to authors being present at the Fair was mixed. One author overheard a publisher saying ‘they’re even letting the public in this year’.


In previous years, I may equally have been in awe of publishing giants such as the ones listed above,  but years of rejection and the lack of support the traditional publishing route provides, has hardened me. Contrast that to the support I have received from other indie authors and my head has turned in a new direction.

In this post and part one, I’ll be looking at three seminars/talks I went to and will provide you with main points/observations from each.

1: The Challenges Facing Traditional Publishers

Tim Davies, Sales and Marketing Director, The History Press

Scott Pack, Publisher, The Friday Project

Jason Cooper, Digital and Enterprise Development Director, Faber & Faber

Main Points:

  • Publishing’s perception of what readers want is  off the mark
  • Readers are tolerant of mistakes in writing
  • Authors no longer need publishers thanks to technology
  • In 3-5 years, authors will find it easier to get published because trade publishing will have to open doors


The industry’s rejection of so many indie authors has forced them to go their own way. They now have the freedom to explore the market through self publishing. Trade publishing is very much on the back foot. That was obvious by the reactive response from the panel as to how they must change things i.e. we have to do this, instead of we should do that. One of the things missing from their discussion was better interation with authors to see how both sides might learn from each other. It was a discussion that, ironically, was listed as an author event and took place in the Author Lounge.

2: I Win, you win, we all win. Winning Through Collaboration

mark lefebvre

Mark Lefebvre, Director of Self-Publishing and Author Relations, Kobo

The place was heaving with authors eager to hear what an industry expert had to say on the matter.

Main Points: I have only two, because the title sums it up really…

  • Collaboration can help you and others to succeed.
  • Collaboration can help you and others to succeed.


I moved from Smashwords to Kobo Writing Life after speaking to Mark LeFebvre at an author networking event. He didn’t ask me to. I was impressed with his willingness to share his time with authors. At the end of the day, we are both in business to make a living, but what many others at the Fair didn’t get is that authors and publishers/literary agents etc… are interlinked. Some crept over to the Author Lounge to peek at what was going on, but didn’t stay to chat. They should have. They could have learned something…

3: Advanced Online Marketing for Authors

Joanna Penn

Joanna Penn, Founder of The Creative Penn & Author, The Creative Penn

Main Points:

Algorithms: Pay attention to Metadata, Keywords, reviews from authors similar to your work. Revise your sales description to optimise it and include relevant keywords.

Email and List Marketing: At a minimum, include an email sign up on your blog/website and link to it from your book.

Paid Promotion services such as BookBub can increase your books visibility.

To view the slides from Joanna’s talk, follow this link directly to Joanna’s site.


The Book Fair needs more of this type of discussion. This was practical information on how you can increase your book’s visibility. We only had an hour with Joanna. We could have chatted for the entire afternoon about metadata and keywords and we still wouldn’t have had enough time! An excellent discussion.

Do you have any thoughts that you’d like to share?

P. S. Stay tuned for the second part of my LBF experience!

6 thoughts on “London Book Fair – What I Learned (Part One)

  1. A great post, Eliza. I went to my first LBF in 2012 and actually felt this year that the established publishing industry’s cool demeanor towards “self-published”, independent authors had thawed somewhat. Talking to friends who work in the industry, it seems like there is much more professional acceptance for indies, even in just 12 months. I think that the indie route is well on its way to becoming the established route for new authors to show what they’ve got. Though once you’ve established an independent readership, the reasons to go with an established publisher start to seem suddenly less compelling…

    1. That’s what I got from it, Kevin. I was once in awe of the publishing giants, but now I’m thinking, ‘how can they add value to what I’m already doing as an indie author’? It’s certainly not the route for everyone. Attitudes on their way to thawing, not fully thawed yet!

    1. Thanks Dianne. It was an interesting experience. I will touch on some more of the semiars/talks I was at in the next post. I think 2014 will be even stronger for authors.

  2. A deft and generous summary, Eliza. I wasn’t present for ALLi’s birth at LBF 2012, but I picture it as the first outing for a plucky new taxicab, driven by the innovators among us. For ALLi’s presence at this LBF 2013, where I was present for the first time, that taxicab had grown into a whole bus, which I’d just about managed to hop onto. For me (though probably not for everyone aboard), this bus appeared to be driving through a dense fog of confusing information; but I’m confident that by LBF 2014, some of that fog outside the windows will have cleared, dispelled by the likes of ALLi’s book…

    1. Well put, Rohan! There were plenty of speakers sticking their toe into author land, but not quite getting why people came to listen. I think ALLi’s contribution helped enormously and certainly made my experience all the more enjoyable :-)

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