PONDERING: The London Book FairFriday, April 26, 2013 12:00
First things first. I stayed at a Travelodge. Hey, they’re clean, and you know exactly what you’re going to get. And if you check at Tripadvisor, you can pick the good ones. I picked a good one. The Waterloo Travelodge has been recently renovated and it has a Sainsburys up the road and a decent Chinese takeaway and a traditional chippie next door, as well as a convenience store. If I ran a fast food place, I’d set up next to a Travelodge, too.
I went to the book fair for the whole three days. I didn’t mean to, I was going to explore a few spots of London I’ve missed before, but Wednesday was the day they buried Margaret Thatcher in a this-is-totally-not-a-state-funeral-but-the-Queen’s-coming kind of way, so I chickened out and went to the fair again. Glad I did, because fans arrived. Which is always kind of fun. Sometimes I forget that other people read my stuff (btw, you can all go out and read Nice ‘n’ Easy which is out this week, because I wrote it and you’ll like it, honest you will).
Sooo. I got to Earl’s Court and found the Ellora’s Cave stall and spent the morning there. It’s huge fun writing erotic romance and watching the faces of the people passing by, because our book covers are pretty racy. I saw some people looking for the naughty bits, but there aren’t any on the covers. Otherwise, the outlets wouldn’t take the books. They range from sweet and romantic to out-and-out raunchy, but Ellora’s Cave is a distinctive brand, and you get what you get. Which people seem to like, judging by my sales. Thank you, people. I also saw one of my other publishers, Samhain, and got to see the copies of my May print release, Lisbon. Anyway. This is a trade fair, and authors are usually not welcome, because this is for publishers and booksellers to get together, not the people who provide them with 90% of the content of their product. This year is an exception, and they even set up an Author Lounge, a place where talks aimed at authors were given.
The unpublished flocked. I flocked, at least to some talks. I found some of the talks very basic and some interesting, but to get to the meat, I had to sit through a lot of explanations that I knew already. But I really appreciated that, because everybody has to start at the beginning and it’s heartening to realise that people want to do it, that they’re interested enough to divvy up and work their feet into bloody stumps traipsing round a place as big as Earl’s Court. It’s obvious that authors are moving on. From our point of view, it’s not political, it’s not adventurous, it’s just what more and more of us are having to do. Writing a book takes months and it takes a lot of work. If even getting a foot in the door takes years, then it’s years before the book hits the shelves, and the returns are decreasing so even the best seller can’t expect to make a living, if publishers are treating books as “product” and making more of the same, then someone who wants to communicate and write their hearts out is going to have to look elsewhere. For most authors it boils down to that. Economics.
Self-publishing was the buzz this year, overwhelmingly so. As well as a renewed interest and even some kind of respectability for the erotic romance. Up to now the erotic romance author, especially the one writing erotic romance for a female audience, has been publishing’s lucrative but dirty secret. Now it’s burst out of the closet. It’s a delight to write, to express an area of women’s lives they haven’t fully explored yet, at least in a literary sense, and it’s a joy to see women having fun with these books.
And that self-publishing. From an author’s point of view, at least one foot in the camp is a wise thing, but the people who are doing best are the brand-new author with a breakout book (the odds would make any bookie rub his hands together in delight) and the midrange author who has a reputation and fans who want what they have to offer. Presumably the big names will move in. The barriers to entry are already increasing. You need a professionally designed cover, good editing, and good formatting. And some kind of awareness campaign. All that costs in money and time, and most of the best known, self-published authors that I know have at least one paid personal assistant.
All this was reflected in the fair. There were talks about metadata, self-publishing houses, “how I did it” stories in the various talks and classes. There were stalls offering those services.
And, before I forget to mention it, Kobo invested heavily in its presence at the fair and released a really nice new ereader with a light. The print is the crispest I’ve ever seen in a device, and were it not for my Nexus 7, I’d be really, really tempted. Mmm, new toys.
I did get a chance of a walk down the Mall and a visit to my favourite painting anywhere, Titian’s “Bacchus and Ariadne.” I even had a couple meet in front of it in Texas Heat.