Francesca Burgess considers the merits of attending this annual event
The first London Book Fair I attended, back in 2010, was very quiet due to the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull (I’m glad I’m writing that and not pronouncing it!) which grounded air traffic. Lucky for me and Elaine Everest; not so lucky for the delegates from abroad who couldn’t make it. Since then it’s been much busier, but I have found this event useful to me as a writer.
For starters, there are the author talks. This year, Elaine, Natalie Kleinman and I sat in on one about Genre Fiction. This gave us valuable tips from Katie Fford (romance novelist), Manda Scott (historical novelist) and Jo Fletcher (publisher specialising in sci fi, fantasy and horror).
Other talks this year (and there were many) included an introduction to publishing, hints on acquiring more readers, the emerging short fiction market and the children’s market.
The author workshops and agent one-to-ones were snapped up very quickly. I wasn’t worried about this as I’ve done similar events elsewhere, but certainly it would have been a fantastic opportunity for writers. There was also a Dragon’s Den style panel where ten authors got to pitch their books to several literary agents. One agent is bad enough but the thought of a panel has me quaking at my computer!
What takes up most time at the book fair is perusing the many stands, for both fiction and nonfiction. They do give a good insight into what publishers are looking for. Although the ‘Big Five’ publishers do attend, and it’s useful to see what genres and subject matter are currently popular with them, it’s often more useful to look at the stands of the smaller publishers. The people here, and they’re often the owners, are usually very friendly. This gives an opportunity to ask about their current requirements and submission process.
If you’re really bold, you can hand them a synopsis and first chapters of your novel, or a proposal for a nonfiction book. They’re often willing to take them, though increasingly now they’ll ask you to submit online instead. Either way you have absolutely nothing to lose.
Often on these forays we’ve found genres or nonfiction subject matter we hadn’t considered writing before. It all helps to open up new possibilities.
With around 1,500 companies represented, 150 subjects covered and over 250 free seminars, what I’ve described here really is the tip of the iceberg and aimed at all publishing professionals, not just writers. At £25 for admission (if you get your ticket early enough), it’s not cheap, but you can go along all three days.
Personally, I didn’t find the LBF so useful for me this year, maybe because five years is enough. In the future I’m going to have a go at some of the other literary events, like the Hove Book Festival and the Whitstable Literary Festival. However, if you’ve never been, it’s well worth giving it a go.
Tips for attending The London Book Fair:
- Wear flat shoes.
- Wear layers – it gets very hot indoors.
- Take a bag for the directory, leaflets, layers etc.
- Take several copies of your synopsis+chapters!
- Sit down with a coffee when you arrive to decide your plan of action. It saves wasting time wandering around aimlessly.
For more information: http://www.londonbookfair.co.uk/