From London Book Fair to an IndieReckoning

Image: At London Book Fair Thursday - Porter Anderson
Image: At London Book Fair Thursday – Porter Anderson

Where do we find authors this year, as London Book Fair closes?

(This story was written originally as a walkup to the #FutureChat of Friday 17th April.)

Authors have long attended book fairs, of course, primarily for reasons of publicity or to meet their international publishers—but now they come to do business and to be part of the trade. In truth, we could all work harder at making sure they feel integrated.

Philip Jones
Philip Jones

That’s my colleague Philip Jones at The Bookseller in his assessment, The Olympia way, of the early going at the London Book Fair.

In it, he notes that Amazon was at best a low-level presence at the trade show, having private events for its authors who, Jones notes, “deserve a more public endorsement.”

And even as Jones prepared to chair Thursday afternoon’s Literary Festival Forum panel on “The Wider Festival Scene,” Philip Gwyn Jones was taking to the forum to announce a “civil war for books.”

Using his prepared text, The Bookseller’s Sarah Shaffi wrote up Philip Gwyn Jones warns on ‘internecine’ book wars.

Sarah Shaffi
Sarah Shaffi

She quoted Gwyn Jones as writing:

The skirmishes in the global book industry are internecine and unrelenting: the independent authors bombard the traditional publishers; the traditional authors bombard the literary festival directors; the traditional publishers bombard the retailers; academics denounce those who would defend copyright as traitors to the public good; and the retailers take the publishers to courts martial.

With the new armaments of disruption and disintermediation whirring nicely, the ‘creative destruction’ of techno-capitalism is at full tilt in the business of writing. But who will taste defeat first? Will it be the publishers? Or the booksellers? Agents? Or, dread thought, might it be the writers? Mounted on my high horse, surveying the scene, I fear it is another regiment on this clamorous battlefield which is most in peril. The Readers.
And meanwhile, as Jones had pointed out in his earlier piece, the area dubbed Author HQ at the top of the “blue stairs” was packed.

As I looked in on Thursday, author Mel Sherratt (visible in the shot above) was joined by her fellow writers Stephanie Hudson, Keith Houghton, and Rachel Abbott, with Amazon’s UK Kindle Direct Publishing director Darren Hardy as chair. I listened to one of the authors onstage speak about having known far too little about “what real editing is” when she started work.

I couldn’t help catch a bit of Jones’ thinking as I realized that the Author HQ enclosure is just that, a kind of enclosure, a sort of safe zone on the trade-show floor for the independent authors’ community (mostly) to stage informational and instructive sessions, to enjoy each other’s company, to have a place…but with how much traction?

It was open and welcoming, but a bit removed from the main action of the trade show, and seemed to run as a separate entity — smoothly, busily, full of the customary enthusiasm of the writerly community but maybe not, as Jones calls for, “integrated.”

300x100 indie reconOn ALLi’s third anniversary: Friday, our #FutureChat will include a short pause for a 15-minute on-camera conversation between me and Orna Ross, founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi).

The organisation has been producing the three-day IndieReCon online and “Live at Foyles” events, culminating Friday in a full day of panels and presentations. There’s a schedule for the day here, and participation is free.

And it was three years ago — at London Author Fair — that Orna Ross founded the non-profit Alliance, which now has membership in several parts of the world.

Orna will be joining me at Novelists Inc. in October for our First Word Day programme on international marketing for authors, as a matter of fact, in St. Pete Beach, Florida. And last November, she joined our FutureBook Conference Big Ideas session with the launch of ALLi’s “Ethical Author” programme, one of a series campaigns in which the outfit has engaged.

We’ll start our #FutureChat at the usual time. Then at 4:15 p.m. London Time — 11:15 a.m. Eastern — I’ll break away to chat with Ross on camera, then return for the back half of our #FutureChat.

And what we all can use this occasion for is a chance to assess where things are for authors, both independent and traditionally publishing — having heard a great deal from the trad-pub side recently in the results of the #authorsay survey, released first by The Bookseller.

Have a look at the Friday program. There’s a session that focuses on “Public Money and Indie Authors”; a panel that includes Trajectory’s Scott Beatty on sales and rights; a panel I’ll be chairing on “How Self-Publishing is Changing Trade Publishing”; Debbie Young on the new “Authors4Bookstores” Campaign; an indie-author advice panel; and more.

Much to see and participate in, and much for us to discuss in #FutureChat.

I hope you’ll join us both for #FutureChat and for IndieReCon, which is hashtagged just that, #IndieReCon.

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By Porter Ander­son

The FutureBook:  #FutureChat: From London Book Fair to an IndieReckoning

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