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Publishing Conferences & Book Fairs – What’s In Them for Self-published Authors?

Self-published authors often wonder whether they can justify paying substantial entry prices to publishing trade and book fairs. Two of ALLi’s valued Partner Members,  Kathy Meis of Bublish and Helen Hart of SilverWood Books, explain how why it’s worth considering such events, and how to make the most of your investment in attending. 

Aerial view of London Book Fair 2013

Where to begin? London Book Fair, 2013 (Photo: SilverWood Books)

Why Publishing Trade Fairs are Important for Self-published Authors

“If you’re a member of ALLi, you’re a step ahead of many independent authors,” says Kathy Meis.

“You’ve found a place to gather intelligence, share ideas and explore important resources that can help you succeed as an author in today’s transformed publishing marketplace.

“That’s important because there is a lot of information to sort through as an author these days. In addition to all the skills you need to master in order to get your book written and published – writing, editing, formatting, designing cover art – there’s another laundry list of items you must learn and do effectively after you publish.

“Today’s author must learn to market, build their brands, manage distribution channels and track sales and revenue. If you plan to build a career as an author (even a part-time career), learning about the business side of writing is central to your success.

Helen Hart at the London Book Fair on the SilverWood stand with Alison Morton and Jo Zefron

At the London Book Fair 2013, SilverWood Books’ Helen Hart (centre) with colleague Jo Zefron (right) and ALLi author member Alison Morton (left) and

How to Make the Most of Trade Fairs

Across the pond in England, Helen Hart, publishing director of author services company SilverWood Books, is often asked whether the UK’s leading book trade event, the London Book Fair, is worth attending, because the it’s primarily a trade fair.

“I think it is,” says Helen, “partly because it’s always nice to immerse yourself in the world of books, but mostly because there’s a lot for authors to see and do. The seminar programme is usually excellent and you can learn about all kinds of important aspects of self-publishing, such as book cover design, new developments with e-books, and developing your author platform. If you’re thinking of publishing your own book, there are plenty of people at such events who can offer assistance and useful information. Plan your visit well and you’ll get a valuable return on your admission price.”

Here are Helen’s top tips for making the most of publishing trade fairs:

  • Scene in an aisle of the London Book Fair

    Plan your route before you go (Photo: SilverWood Books)

    First of all, decide what you want to get out of the event. Is it to try for a trade contract or to find author services to help you self-publish your book? If already self-publishing, do you want to meet publicists who might give your promotion a boost? Or do you want to chat to distributors and wholesalers to find out more about getting your book into bookshops?

  • Plan your visit in advance by checking out the exhibitor catalogue, usually available before the show on the exhibition wesbite.If you’re looking for a traditional publishing deal, pinpoint publishers (or agents) you think would be interested in your book – small indies as well as the big companies.
  • Bear in mind that publishers are there to showcase their new titles rather than spot new talent – but if you’re lucky, you might get to meet the right people to discuss your book, so try making an appointment in advance.
  • Ditto re literary agents – they’ll be spending much of their time in private meetings, so an appointment is vital.
  • When you’ve decided whose stands you want to visit, check out those exhibitors’ websites before you go. If possible, contact them in advance to make an appointment, to be sure of being seen.
  • Prepare a list of questions you want answered to cover everything you need.
  • On the day, dress smartly but also wear comfy shoes and layers – it can be hot at trade shows and concrete floors can be hard on the feet!
  • Make sure you have your personal book data with you for reference to help you answer exhibitors’ questions about your books: the word count of your manuscript; how many images/tables/charts are to go in the book (if any); whether you want paperback, ebook, hardback, or all three; when you hope to launch your book; what plans you have for promotion; a summary of your author platform and social media activities.
  • Take copies of your Bookseller Information Sheet (sometimes called an Advance Information sheet, or AI) to give to the right people – this contains all the essential information about you and your book and presents you in a professional way.
  • Have other useful information at your fingertips, such as press coverage received to date, photos of your book launch or event and any sales stats.
  • Don’t take lots of copies of your book, which could get heavy and cumbersome – instead give out the information sheet and simply show one copy of the book to everyone, but don’t leave it with them – if they want a copy, take their card and send a copy afterwards with a follow up letter.
  • Take business cards away from each stand and after each appointment so you have up-to-date contact details, or named people to make contact with afterwards (and send your book to).
  • Finally – have fun!

Both Kathy and Helen are involved with publishing trade fairs and other book promotion events in their regions.

Kathy Meis

Kathy Meis of Bublish

Pubsmart (South Carolina, USA)

Kathy Meis’s company Bublish is a sponsor of PubSmart, a new event which will take place in Charleston, South Carolina, USA in April. 

“PubSmart is a new kind of publishing event that puts emerging authors and small publishers in the driver’s seat and gives them the information they need to create a customized roadmap for success,” explains Kathy. “It’s about introducing innovative models that lead to smart decisions and new opportunities in today’s disrupted book marketplace.”

To learn more about Pubsmart and to register, visit www.pubsmartcon.com – and if you’re quick, you’ll be able to benefit from Pubsmart’s Earlybird booking offer, valid until the end of 14th February 2014.

London Book Fair & Book Expo America

Group of authors listening to a speaker at SilverWood Open Day

An anthology of authors at SilverWood’s January Open Day, including ALLi author members David Ebsworth and Lucienne Boyce (Photo: Rebecca Millar)

Many ALLi members are planning to attend the London Book Fair (LBF), where ALLi, with the help of Kobo, will be launching its new book, Opening Up To Indie Authors, an important tool in its “Open Up To Indies” campaign and Book Expo America (BEA), where Choosing A Self-Publishing Service will prominently feature.

ALLi will have a full programme of member events at both fairs (watch out for upcoming newsletters). If you’re a member and  planning to attend, don’t book your ticket yet – we’ll be announcing a special offer available exclusively to ALLi members shortly.

SilverWood Books also offer smaller-scale events in the form of Open Days, staged at the Foyles Bookshop in Bristol to help aspiring self-published authors gain new skills, knowledge and confidence. Expert guest speakers included Diego Marano of Kobo Writing Life, Ben Cameron of ALLi Partner Member Cameron Publicity and Marketing, and Debbie Young, ALLi’s blog editor.

The next one is on September 20th and unlike trade shows, SilverWood’s Open Days are free, but advance booking is essential. See the SilverWood website.

What are the best publishing trade and book fairs in your region, and how can self-published authors make the most of them? Please add your suggestions in the comments box! 

Equally, feel free to highlight any publishing trade fairs that have in your experience let self-published authors down, as recorded in previous posts by Pete Morin and Christine Frost:

We’re trying to change that with our Opening Up To Indie Authors Campaign and Guide. Sign our petition here.

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5 Responses to Publishing Conferences & Book Fairs – What’s In Them for Self-published Authors?

  1. Ingrid February 14, 2014 at 9:39 am #

    Hi,
    Thanks for this timely post.
    Any guidelines for a great Booksellers Information Sheet or a pointer to a reliable source for that information? Thanks!

    • Debbie Young February 24, 2014 at 8:52 am #

      There’s a little bit of info on this link, Ingrid: http://www.silverwoodbooks.co.uk/promote-your-book – and a bit more in Chapter 8 of my book promotion handbook, “Sell Your Books!” This chapter is all about building a relationship with bookshops. Here are the essentials to include: your full contact details, address, landline, mobile, email, website, Facebook page name, Twitter account, plus of course your book’s essential data – ISBN, number of pages, format, recommended retail price, your book’s blurb and cover image. It’s important to make it look as professional as possible – emulate the standard that a trade publisher will produce – single side A4 on decent quality paper. Proofread it over and over again to make sure there are no typos or other errors – if there are, the bookseller will assume there’ll be typos in your book too!

  2. Peter Tong February 14, 2014 at 3:12 pm #

    It is always uplifting to be reassured there are folk who care about us as individuals. Also those who are receptive to personal input which can hopefully benefit others. Thank you Debbie and all at ALLi and our global associates.

    • Debbie Young February 24, 2014 at 8:42 am #

      Thanks, Peter, you’re very welcome. With ALLi, no author is an island!

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