Saturday, April 16, 2011

The London Book Fair's For Authors Too! Conf 667

The London Book Fair at Earls Court is just 15 minutes' walk from my flat yet I've never considered going. Ever. It's for the business end, where publishers and agents do their deals, not for authors. Besides that it costs a fortune to get in. So it never crossed my mind. But this year a friend suggested I might want to go with her and, when I discovered the early booking discount, and thought, hang on a minute, I'm a publisher as well now, I decided to go.

It's HUGE. I mean, I know Earls Court is big, I've been to trade fairs there before. But this expands to the 2nd floor (the agents' section and quite a sight - 100s and 100s of tables and a champagne bar). Then there are simultaneous seminars happening in countless rooms on the floor itself and in different conference rooms all around. Fascinating! So, so much going on, so much to see, to absorb.

My first stop was Digital Publishing in Russia (Russia was the theme this year).  In a conference room miles from anywhere up lots of stairs I found Russian crime novelist superstar Boris Akunin talking to a half-empty room. The Chair was Peter Collingridge from Enhanced Editions and with them were 2 Russian publishers. Why on earth it wasn't packed out to heaving I've no idea.

Boris was so interesting. He's writing digital books now as well, using the new technology as a tool. When ePub3.0 arrives (for more about this see here) he's ready to move in deeper, integrating video clips and audio into his plots. There will be different endings. The reader will have to hunt out clues by looking, listening and guessing. New ways of writing will evolve he says. To those who throw their hands up in horror, Boris' answer is that 'every problem is a new opportunity.'

I for one was greatly inspired and am rethinking the way I restructure my half-written, put to one side, children's epic to include these multimedia enhancements.

One of the publishers then explained how piracy is a real problem in Russia. This is another reason they are keen to buy more innovative multi-media ebooks - they're difficult to copy.  In Russia, he said, electronic books don't compete with paper books, they broaden the audience. The more ebooks that sell the more paper books sell. The Russian digital book market is split into 30% fiction, 30% non-fiction, 10% esoteric and the rest art(?)/science/fantasy.

The blogosphere in Russia is very very very popular and highly active on cultural, social and political levels. Boris has a popular blog. He writes there and interacts with his readers. From it he's writing a book including the most interesting comments. 'Why do authors need publishers!' he asked. 'It's all right for you,' somebody said. But he said he is working with the blog, getting subscribers, running competitions to promote his books. Publishers are slow to catch on to the importance of internet search strategy. 'This is the future, this is where new books and new authors will be discovered.' In response to Boris' question about what do authors need publishers for, Peter Collingridge listed:

Added value. Editorial. Shaping. Communicating with the reader.

The talk then moved on to agents. What will the publisher/agent/author relationship be in the future? Will agents become publishers? The Wylie Agency and Sheilland were mentioned as being on the ball.

I was then brought right down by a talk for authors where a self-publishing set-up was flogging their print on demand package to authors for £hundreds. There are plenty of free POD set-ups these days, see Lulu, CreateSpace, WordClay.

But things livened up again with another Boris session the next day (promoted this time to Author of The Day with a suitable sell-out standing room only crowd) and then the treat that was Kazuo Ishiguro.

My friend The Writing Coach blogs about the more traditional writing side of their talks and our well-earned champagne stop here.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.


Mya said...

Thanks for a fascinating report, Stephanie. Everything is moving so swiftly at the moment, isn't it? I find it quite exciting - there are far more opportunities and things to go at for writers. And that is good!
Take care.

Mya x

Stephanie Zia said...

Pleasure, Mya. So swiftly! When I published my first ebook nobody knew what they were here. The US still is the main market with something like 10% or more of book sales (UK has 3%) but it's growing here all the time. POD is a really interesting development as well.