London Book Fair Day 1 : The Starguard News

London Book Fair Day 1

by ray burke on 03/18/17

The London Book Fair

Tues March 14th - Thurs 16th, 2017

Olympia Conference Centre

Author HQ Seminars

Day 1

As per my previous years, I had planned out the seminars and publishing stands I wanted to visit, though didn't make them all. In the Author HQ area in the 1st floor main hall, there were more seats, but the same noise and microphone issues as years previous were present. Some presenters were hard to hear or not effective speakers. I had also made sure I had my wheeled backpack with me so I didn't have to lug 6 books (for previews and handouts) and other paraphernalia on my back all day.

13:45 - Region Spotlight: America

How to increase your opportunities in the US market. Chaired by Alison Baverstock from Kingston University with speakers Porter Anderson (Editor-in-Chief Publishing Perspectives and the Hot Sheet newsletter), Philippa Donovan (SmartQuill editor), and Gail Hockman (Brandt & Hockman agent).

Porter began with trends in the US, especially novelty trends in books with audio books on the increase. He asked the audience how we published - with around 80% indy published, around 10% traditionally published (or both indy and traditional), a few weren't published/still writing. In 2015, 625,000 self-published authors had ISBNs almost the same as those without ISBNs. He also noted that it is quality, not quantity that counts with books being traditionally published, adding that since the advent of self-publishing none of the big traditionally-published authors had gone into self-publishing, but many self-published could become traditionally published. Asked about the optimism of the US publishing industry as a whole in regards to a sustainable traditionally-published world he stated it was around 8/10, but realistically it is 5/10.

Philippa championed content, better quality writing as the way to crack different markets whether in UK, US or Australia. She works in all 3 countries searching for talent to adapt to TV/film. Her talk was about the elusive aspects of finding the formula regarding what makes a best seller - the commonalities, factors, demographics, etc, but it mainly comes down to quality of the work.

Gail's company only takes on around 15 new authors per year (it's a tough gig writing!). Her point was about redrafting and making the book the best it can be as it is harder even for an agent to sell to US publishers. She finds it easier with the French, German and Japanese book fairs. Such markets further the career of an author. As an insight into an agent's mind - she reads around only 20-40 pages assessing the quality of a book so she can know and understand the characters, know the premise and the scene, know the voice, style and detail of the author and characters, and feel glued to the chair. She reads until there is reason to reject the book. But most agents know within a few pages, even the very first page. (A frightening notion!)

14:45 - How to Find and Work with a Literary Agent

Jacq Burns (Literary agent with The London Writers Club) chaired the session with speakers Jemima Forrester (David Higham), Claribel Ortega (Director of Media, Combined Book Event) and Euan Thorneycroft (AM Heath).

Jemima started off with a short spiel about what an agent does, forging an early close relationship and collaboration with her client assuring their needs are met.

Euan reinforced this stating it was a multi-faceted role as an editor, friend, seller, publisher, hand-holder, therapist (half-joking), but mainly they are there to champion their clients to publishers and to challenge both the publisher and author for their best work. The book has to be the best it can be. There are those who pitch prematurely - don't risk sending in unfinished unedited work! He split submissions into terrible work, well-written work with good ideas but which don't connect with him, and briliant work.

Claribel was an interesting character as she found her agent through Twitter!! There are various contests run on Twitter through, #DVpit. The next contest is in April. You pitch the premise of your book in a tweet and winning submissions are then chosen by different agents. She had sent out 56 queries in 4 months; her motto being 'if you don't sell this book, then sell the next one.' It was harder work even after getting an agent as there are promotional works to do, not just selling, but networking/connecting on social media. Her advice was:

1.  to have a book with a strong narrative voice.

2. To research agents and send to a specific person (Dear sir/madam letters get thrown out!)

3. keep comments positive after rejection. Positive comments from agents encourages re-editing or re-submission, or at least encouragement to keep writing.

1. Market research and define your book's USP.

2. Everyone has aspects of their self to promote.

15:45 - The Right Rights: What to Look Out for in a Good/Bad Contract

The Society of Authors' Kate Pool and Celia Rees took us through this interesting topic.

The first question asked was 'Why do you want a publisher and are your expectations realistic? Then 'Why would a publisher want you?' The good thing about self-publishing is author control. You get more royalties and keep all the control over your work. With traditional publishing you lose more control and give away more rights. In a contract, rights given include:

1. To publish a book - print, ebook, (maybe) audio - in English

2. Foreign rights and translations

3. Dramatisation, media, TV/Film

4. Academic and educational rights (depending on book content). These factors get placed into something called an aggregator.

How long does an author give away these rights: for a lifetime + 70 years! Foreign rights only last 10 years. These guarantee a first initial print run with advanced royalties.

Celia noted that the most important clause in a contract is the Termination clause. How to leave a contract. A contract can be quit if the publisher goes bust, there's a breach of contract, or if they are no longer selling the book.

Further, if a publisher makes editorial changes, they should send the proof to the author to approve any changes. There may also be options on book sequels - a book deal or a first option to them. If not, the author may be offered a less-than-optimal contract in the future for books not included in the initial contract. The author may not also be allowed to write another book competing with their own book. Publishers may also seek to not include print on demand books opting for ebooks so extra costs aren't spent on printing, warehousing/storage and distribution, leading to less royalties for the author.

Agent Contracts

With an agent you should have exclusivity. Commission is 15-20%, but make sure it includes any sub-agent fees - not in addition to. They would also have to declare any commercial interests with publishers. You can terminate a contract between 30-90 days. Make sure you are signed to a specific agent and not with the agency or you could be moved around from agent to agent. There may be upfront fees to consider

16:45 - Book Jacket Design: Importance, Considerations, and Approach

Byte The Book's Justine Solomons chaired the session with cover designers Mark Ecob (Mecob Design), Angus Hyland (Pentagram), Claire Ward (Harper Fiction & Non-Fiction).

Angus, though not a polished speaker, designed the EAT. Logo and resigned the new Penguin books penguin which has subtly changed over the century. Penguin is a bit thinner surrounded by a punchier orange.

Each summarised their design process. They studied the background, summary and tone of voice of the book. Their intent is to get the right author to the right audience through the cover working with the title, author name, typeface, its positioning, font and colour. With branding the visual cues are basically carried through typography and genre-related pictures.

And crucially covers do change between UK/US markets and internationally.

After the talk, I was able to get to Mark Ecob to assess my cover. I showed him the before/after covers of the original and new books. Even though I love my new cover, Mark was less effusive stating the stylised 'Starguards' on the back should be on the front top to emphasise the series, the title and my name could be bigger, all the ships should be on the front to give focus, and there should be a strap line (which I had on the original cover). This moment was captured in an industry magazine, so hopefully that'll be in my publicity folder one day! :-) It was good advice which I will be taking for the next cover - Christmas time?

During the day, I met up with various friends, friends of friends and characters. Last year I had met David Perlmutter who since then had signed a publishing deal for his book Wrong Place Wrong Time. I also met authors Stephen Marriot and Jon-Jon Jones. We are the London Book Fair Rat Pack, as I dubbed it. We have fun together despite our different book subjects. It's a great learning experience being with other authors.

I also met up with Saiswaroopa? from last year and as I had mentioned her in my acknowledgements gave her a free book. Though her husband purloined it from her when she got home so she has to read it second!

After the seminars there was a Byte The Book networking event where authors had to ask each other questions to fill out a card to win a bottle of champagne. I could boost to knowing how to ski so that helped out with a few answers. I collected quite a few business cards as well. After that Stephen, Dave, and I nipped over to English Pen which helps promote freedom of expression and literacy. There's nothing like networking after, a few drinks, meeting new people and learning about other agencies around the world.

We then joined Jon-Jon in the Beaconsfield pub at the back of Olympia. There I had one of the best burritos I've ever had. Then it was time for home for me. A long day and ready for some rest.



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