Reflections on the London Book Fair 2015 and more

Reflections on the London Book Fair 2015

Well, the London Book Fair has been and gone. Is it only a week ago that I was trudging home with publishers’ catalogues and notes from the various sessions I attended?

I found it really useful: three days’-worth of excellent talks and discussions, for the princely sum of £35. And that included the mega-useful directory, with all the exhibitors’ contact details in it.

The main place I went to was the Authors HQ, an island of self-publishing in a vast ocean of traditional publishing. All of the talks there were tremendously useful, and I have loads to follow up on.

Loved the idea of a gigantic sofa for "social networking"!

A couple of highlights for me were:

  • Finding out that video bloggers, or vloggers, cover more than just make-up tips for girls or puerile drivel for blokes. It seems obvious now, but I found out there are book vloggers too, known as “book tubers”. I had a quick look and there are tons of them. Hopefully I will be able to find one who will review my (forthcoming) self-published works.
  • Hearing about NetGalley, where readers can obtain books to review, and authors can pay to have their books available for review. I thought I’d give it a whirl as a reader before shelling out as a writer. I’ll report back in due course.

I also attended a fascinating talk by Marcello Vena called The Myth of the Long Tail. That was the term coined by Chris Anderson, of Wired Magazine, to describe the situation in which, because of low storage costs, extremely niche products could be made available on the web.

I didn’t think an awful lot of it at the time his book came out, although I thought the idea was interesting. By the time his book Free was published, I’d had enough of what I considered to be his dubious analysis. See Book review: The Long Tail, by Chris Anderson and Free, by Chris Anderson - A Non-Review respectively.

According to Vena, in the field of digital music as well as in that of ebooks, most people sell very little. In the words of a 14 year old girl to whom I’d once said that research has shown that girls have more of their brain devoted to language than boys do, I think we all knew that!

Like me, Vena believes that the costs associated with the long tail are not zero. At the very least, web storage costs money, but beyond that are the costs, especially in terms of time, of creating and then marketing your work. (Read Revisiting the Long Tail Theory as Applied to Ebooks for a more in-depth exposition of his analysis.)

Vena was at pains to stress that when Anderson wrote his books there was no data available; now there is. But as he said, a wrong theory isn’t necessarily useless, and a useful theory isn’t necessarily right.

(This is absolutely true of course. You only have to consider that Newton’s theory of how the universe works was useful but, in the light of Einstein’s work, wrong (or, at least, not the complete picture). The same is true in other fields, such as Economics.)

I suppose the key question for self-publishers is: will realising that the benefits of the long tail, from a producer’s point of view, are non-existent make any difference? I think not. We authors tend to be an optimistic bunch, otherwise we wouldn’t do what we do. The statistics may tell us that most of us won’t earn much from our writing, and some of us may actually lose money (see What do writers earn?), but we will not be deterred.

Back to the Book Fair.

I prefer Olympia, its new home, to Earl’s Court, but as always I did find myself frequently geographically challenged, despite the excellent signage. Still, it seemed to work well, and what I liked in particular was that getting from one talk to another didn’t seem to take as long as it did at Earl’s Court.

The programme of talks was excellent. I like the idea of short, 20 minute ones, but in practice I found that I skipped a few because of the risk of arriving 5 minutes late, and thereby missing 25% of the talk.

I thought Midas PR did a great job of hosting the talks in the Author HQ. Also, the girls in the Media Office, who were also from Midas, were always friendly and helpful. If it hadn’t been for them, I would probably still be wandering around Olympia looking for the Apex Room!

All in all, a good experience, and I am looking forward to the London Book Fair 2016.


What do writers earn?

A recent piece of research from the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) makes for some depressing reading – unless you are extremely optimistic.Don't give up the day job just yet

The figures relate to 2013, and are not as good as their equivalents of ten years ago, in 2005. Well, not for the most part anyway. Here are some of them:


  • Only 11.5% of authors earn their income solely from writing.
  • The median income of authors is £11,000. This is a fall of 29% in real terms. The report doesn’t say what the spread of incomes is though. It would be interesting to know what the top earners earn – something to aspire to!
  • Sadly, 17% of writers earned nothing at all from writing.


  • The top 10% earners among self-published authors made a profit of £7,000 or more.
  • The top 20% earners among self-published authors made a profit of nearly £3,000.
  • The bottom 20% earners among self-published authors made losses of at least £400.

I think it would have been interesting to have had a breakdown of the figures by genre and price point. It would also be interesting to know how far having a book professionally edited, proofread and designed made a difference to sales.

Still, all of this is interesting, though possibly not surprising. The figures make me want to try harder and smarter, rather than simply throw in the towel. I hope they cause you to react in the same way!

You can download the report, “What are words worth now?”, from here: ALCS Research

I know it’s a bit risky to announce this, in case nothing comes of it (eg I might get run over by a bus), but I'm hoping to write and self-publish a few books. If you'd like to be kept informed of new titles, please sign up to Terry's Books Bulletin by clicking the button below. Thank you.

(If you already subscribe to Digital Education, which is designed for people who work in education, all you have to do is click on the text in the footer of a recent newsletter, the bit that says “Change email address etc”, and you’ll be presented with a form on which you can select the Books Bulletin.)


More notes from the London Book Fair 2015

LBF 2015 Discussion before the discussionI spent another day at the London Book Fair today. This time, I had earmarked just two talks to go to, the rest of my time being given over to wandering around and seeing what looked interesting.

It's good to have a gallery from which you can get your bearings!

I forgot to mention in my blog post Notes from the London Book Fair 2015 yesterday that I had made a note of about half a dozen exhibitors that I definitely wanted to see. Well, not just see, but have a conversation with. I’ve managed to achieve most of that quest. Hopefully I’ll complete it tomorrow.

I should have liked to have visited the Society of Editors and Proofreaders, but they don’t have a stand at the show. I didn’t think they would, but we live in hope. They wrote a decent blog post about it last month though, which is well-worth reading if you could get to the Fair on the last day (16th April) but are prevaricating: Six reasons to go to the London Book Fair.

Yesterday one of my top tips was to get to the seminar theatre early in order to bag a good seat. Today I arrived at one so early that the previous one was still in full swing! It was on a subject I thought I had little immediate interest in, but I picked up some useful generic tips. Same thing happened yesterday. So Terry’s top tip of today is:

Get to your session so early that you see the last 15 minutes of the session before!

While trawling the internet for interesting blog posts about the London Book Fair that were not blatant exercises in self-promotion, I came across London Book Fair: a blogger’s-eye view. It’s a fascinating take on the London Book Fair that I’d never considered before, written by Ann Morgan who a few years ago “read around the world”. Take a look at the list of countries she visited through her reading, and the FAQs page on her website. I think it’s a brilliant idea, and now I have my work cut out catching up with reading Ann’s blogs and reviews about the books she read.


Notes from the London Book Fair 2015

I always look forward to the London Book Fair – I think it’s the thrill of being surrounded by so many books! Today was the first of three, and I used it to attend seminars for the most part.

I’m delighted to say that the talk and panel discussions I attended were excellent: not a dud one in sight. The interviewers asked some probing questions, and so did members of the audiences.

The London Book Fair this year takes up 2 floors of 2 halls at Olympia, London

My focus was on book promotion and marketing, and book cover design. (I’ve come to the conclusion that my wondering about whether cover design is important in a highly niche market (see A self-publishing journey: book covers and current “conventional” wisdom) was misplaced. It certainly is.

Terry’s top tips for those intending to attend:

  • Download the app. It’s almost excellent (it was completely excellent until it inexplicably deleted an entry from my diary).
  • Get to seminars/discussions 15 minutes early to grab a decent seat.

This year, my attending the London Book Fair is a major part of my self-publishing journey.

On day 2 I will be working on one of the three books I am currently writing before heading off to the show. There I will attend two seminars and spend more time wandering about.

If you tweet about the London Book Fair, the main hashtag seems to be #LB515.

The giant social networking sofa: brilliant!


A self-publishing journey: laying the foundations

After quite a long gap, I’ve decided to self-publish a few books. I thought it might be interesting to write up my journey, because perhaps the research I undertake will be beneficial to others.

It’s unfortunate, but what with doing lots of research into self-publishing, signing up for Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing programme and Createspace, and attempting to earn a living and, well, just do all the normal stuff like shopping, I’ve had no time for writing in the last couple of weeks.

I know, I know: if I set the alarm 30 minutes earlier I could bash out a couple of hundred words before breakfast. However, I have decided that I should be good to myself, which at the moment means catching up on my sleep.

I also thought to myself – and perhaps this will help any other writer who finds themselves wracked with guilt over not writing enough – that the sort of groundwork I’m doing is important. In fact, it’s essential. And it can’t be outsourced in my opinion. Not if you want to make the best decision you can, at least.

Photo by Carlisle Hvac

I liken this phase to the period before painting the walls in your bedroom or lounge. You don’t dip the brush in a pot of paint and go charging towards the wall. You select the paint, select the brushes, cover surfaces, make sure cleaning agents are within easy reach. All of that takes time, sometimes even longer than the painting itself, but it’s the only way you can be sure of doing the best job possible.

As someone, I don’t recall who, said: “Well begun is half done”. Exactly.


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