The London Book Fair 06/04/2022 – Special Edition

Have you ever been to the Olympia Exhibition Centre in Kensington or the London Book Fair?

I’ve been to Olympia a couple of times in the last few years for the PLASA exhibitions, promoting supply technologies companies and services to the event and entertainment industries. Once in 2018 and again last year.

If you’re an avid follower of my blog, you will have read about my exploits at the time, and if not, follow the links above.

So I thought I was ready for my first visit to the London Book Fair. Of course, I had a vested interest in having published my book last year, but my primary purpose was to capture the moment and plan a return next year as an author. 

But I was unprepared for the scale of the London Book Fair. Every inch/centimetre of space was taken up with all things bookish. I had two plans for the day: Capture the event as best I could and engage with as many people as possible;  meet up with two author friends (see later).

Regular exhibition goers will know that a good map is essential. But for the aimless wanderer, you may lose your bearings weaving in and out of stands across all floors.

So let’s open this storybook and see what we find.

An Author’s Journey

From my early experience (and I am no expert), it’s reassuring to know there’s a process to follow from which to make decisions. These include deciding what to write, how to write, and writing itself. Then, after writing, editing, proofreading, illustrating and designing, and the cost of your book.

Your book lives onI’ve not even contemplated what happens to books when they are no longer saleable. So let me start my blog here, as my first port of call was to two stands that have the answer.

Jake Pumphrey of Pumpkin Wholesale Ltd explained there’s a marketplace for unwanted books. So when a publisher wants to free up space taken up by unsold books from their warehouses, or a self-publisher has a cupboard full of unsold books, other suppliers buy them. Hence the book’s life is extended.

Jamie and Luke Wilkins of Big Book Wholesale explained their operating model was similar but on a larger scale. They had bought the stock from The Book People, who went out of business a few years ago. I remember them well as they would sell through schools, fairs, online, and at great prices. Some we bought are now a legacy for our grandchildren at home.

The Book People had their warehouses in Bangor and Porthmadog in North Wales, and that’s where Jamie has spent the last year trawling through and assessing the 2,500 palettes of books they have acquired.

International – The ground floor was awash with large and smaller stands dedicated to publishers and publications in different languages and those who translated their books into English. But my memorable international moment was meeting Gvantsa and Tina from the Georgian Publishers and Booksellers Association, who were promoting their country’s work in English.

They also showed their solidarity with the Ukrainian people through a collection of illustrated postcards with words you will not fail to be moved by. Please take a look here.

The Booktrail Agency, based in Kansas City, will ‘help you find the way towards a better and more successful publishing experience!’ They are only one of the many global companies that offer an end to end publication experience for independent authors showing that you are not alone out there when it comes to getting your book to market.

Publishing House – getting a ‘book deal’ may be an author’s dream, but it doesn’t happen just like that to most authors – unless you have an established reputation or are famous. But getting a deal has to start somewhere, and all publishing houses are open to submissions. 

An image from the Austin Macauley stand

Submissions can take many forms depending on whether you’re writing a fiction or non-fiction book. And sometimes, you don’t need to have written a word, as it’s the idea that captures the publishing house’s attention. They will then work with you to develop and create your book.

The largest publishing houses dominated the main ground floor, such as Harper Collins and Penguin Random House, where many conversations took place inside their stands. But this was also true of other publishing houses that have earned their place in the market. 

I met Bianca Bendra of Novum as I was drawn in by the display of books, particularly the History of Piracy and Navigation. I explained my own ‘end of the line’ journey as we chatted. She laughed as her husband was enjoying the freedom of the London underground, travelling to some of London’s football stadia whilst she was busy at the exhibition.

An Independent Author’s Lot – publishing and printing your book can be daunting, especially if it’s your first time. So, where do you go for help, advice and support?

In my case, I joined Michael Heppell’s Write that Book Masterclass back in 2020, and I’ve never looked back. But there are other similar groups out there too, and I came across the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi).

 ALLi is a non-profit professional association for self-published authors. Its mission is ethics and excellence in self-publishing, and its annual subscription is £69 for budding authors, £89 for self-published, and £119 for those who have sold 50,000 copies or more in the past two years. So it’s well worth a visit to their site.

Children’s Books – and it’s at ALLi I met Kate Cunningham, owner of the Reading Riddle, where she combines historical learning for children of all ages through wonderfully illustrated adventure stories. Her son Sam is the illustrator. Kate enthusiastically described the benefits of being a member of ALLi, and more modestly about her books.

Here’s Kate with her latest book from her Vlad series, where Vlad has adventures in ancient Rome.

Next up it’s the story of Turmali and the Light Savers, a concept created by Mike Gaunt. It consists of 28 books for children aged 7 to 13, taking them through 132 exciting adventure stories. And they’re all told via the help of 12 children with superpowers from around the globe. Oh yes, and let’s not forget their friendly robot IKE too.

Meet the Authors

My short two-year book writing journey has predominantly been a virtual one with coaching and guidance from Michael Heppell through regular zoom conversations, contact through a Facebook group and a library of material, including podcasts from professionals from within the publishing world.

This works well, particularly when working with a small group of accountability partners who have since become friends. 

The accountability group was pivotal in helping with morale, motivation and ploughing through the moments of self-doubt and moments (and there were many) of procrastination. But the best part was the fun, the camaraderie and knowing there were others you could call on at a moment’s notice.

Facebook Groups enable you to comment on others’ work and offer positive and constructive feedback. Challenging at times, but it’s a great exercise in reappraising your thoughts and how best to support others. For example, I was fortunate to have about a dozen friends comment on my book through its lifecycle, and equally, I have contributed to several other authors who have since published their books.

One of those authors who published early in my book writing career is Alan Rafferty, author of Buying Your Granddaughter. His book is now widely available through all bookstores thanks to his publisher Conrad Press and his printers, Clays Ltd. Here’s Alan proudly showing off his book with Leyla Yusuf-Strang from Clays.

And here’s Sarah McGeough, a children’s author and book coach. Her brand, The Flamingo Family, focuses on an adopted Emu through her two books: ‘Eddy Finds a Family’ and ‘Eddy Feels at Home’. And under her Write Now Coaching brand, she’ll motivate, encourage and gently push you forward to help you publish your book.

Sarah was anxious as she was live-streaming directly into a Facebook Group. But she did very well, especially standing outside the publishers she would one day aspire to be partnered with.

Picture of the Day – the three amigos

Despite my feet being tired at the end of the day, it was a stimulating event after speaking with many suppliers on various book-related matters. And there may be some other exciting news to come, but more on that if and when things transpire. 

But the best part was meeting up with Sarah and Alan, author friends I’ve only met virtually over the past two years.

So here we are, the three amigos, about to enjoy a meal together. What a brilliant day!

  • Location: The London Book Fair, Olympia
  • Date/Time: Wednesday 06/04/2022 
  • Settings: Camera – Motorolag9 power (mobile); Aperture – ƒ2.2; Shutter Speed – 1/100; Focal Length – 4mm; Film Speed – ISO200

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