This was my third London Book Fair – and I think I felt the same sense of awe/fear/smugness/boredom I felt at the first one. If you don’t know it, it’s one of the largest annual trade events, up there with Frankfurt and attendees come from all over the world (Wiki has representation at over 100 countries). So there’s a lot of money on show here one way and another. But seriously, who wants to see a 6′ photo of George R R Martin on a good day?!?!
I’ve been thinking about what I should say about it this year, hence the delay in posting. Anyway, here goes.*
Look, I know the London Book Fair is a trade fair and I’m only an independent author and it’s not, strictly speaking, aimed at me. Well, I also know that’s changing. This year, the show’s organisers let some of the barbarians through the gate – with their blessing. A week later and I’m still smiling.
No, it wasn’t Visigoths or Huns this time, just a g̶r̶o̶u̶p̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶u̶p̶s̶t̶a̶r̶t̶s̶ startup group calling themselves The Alliance of Independent Authors, “a global, nonprofit, collaborative collective of independent self-publishing writers”.
In the Old Press Room, overlooking the teeming masses of traditional publishing, Orna Ross, founder and author, opened the session by stating the intent of the group to be a support community for self-published authors. I think her quote sums it up for me:
““Hello. We’re here. We’re at the London Book Fair and we’re here to stay!”
And her enthusiasm is infectious!
Structured around two panel sessions, the morning seemed to zip by, starting with representatives of some of the self-publishing tools, namely, Michael Tamblyn from Kobo, Teresa Pereira from Blurb UK and Tom Kephart from Amazon’s CreateSpace.
It was good to have the chance to meet them and hear what they think (positive) about self-published authors like us. Tamblyn announced Kobo was planning to have its own self-publishing platform in place in the next month, fully supporting independents. And listening to Pereira from Blurb, I had a few ideas about things I can do with my books, particularly making special versions in print.
The second panel was made up of authors, most of whom had been published traditionally at some point: Dan Holloway, Linda Gillard, John Logan and Joni Rodgers.
Dan has been writing online since 2008 and has never wanted to go down the traditional route, enjoying the flexibility and freedom of the online world. I’m going to have to check out his work.
Of the remaining three, Logan and Gillard were both traditionally published authors who’s publishers dropped them – on the basis that their books were great but un-marketable. Hah. Okay, they’re from two different sides of the equation: Linda had a fan-base that encouraged her to self-publish and John just published his novel The Survival of Thomas Ford>/em> to get it out there. If anything, they both seem shocked that they’ve managed to do so well on their own.
Joni Rodgers has been involved in the industry for years, so for her to take the step away from traditional publishing and say things like “I’m not going back…” does more than suggest that the sea change traditional publishers are worried about.
Her response to the question whether Amazon is Evil or not (okay, I’m paraphrasing) was similarly succinct.
“Amazon… is like that big sandworm in Dune. Sooner or later you realise, either it’s going to swallow you up, or you’re going to get up there and ride it! I’m riding that sandworm, baby.”
It’s all well and good for purists to deride what Amazon’s accomplished and what they offer new writers, but I suspect they’re not struggling to get sales or audience. So I’m with Joni on this one.
Join the Alliance
I joined ALLIA – the official shortening of the name, before the Fair, as I’ve been looking for a group of like-minded people who do what I do for some time. One of the things the interwebs have been good for is finding communities. I continually marvel at how much smaller the world is since I was a kid (or maybe I got bigger, who knows?). This is also the opportunity for us to pool our experiences and try to learn something from each other.
So, if you’re publishing your own work and want to be part of a group helping people like yourself, join up today. I think it’s going to be great!
And you can find more about the launch on Orna’s website.