I arrived at the book fair with a notebook in my bag and a pen to make notes but this year I found that while I enjoyed the experience it lacked from my first trip last year.
I wondered around the hall in awe again of the stands and displays of the publishers at first still a little unsure of how the book fair worked. In my first year I went almost purely for Author HQ and the advice they could give a prospective author (I still have all of my notes). This year I not only went for any more advice and an update on the publishing situation in terms of e-book sales, hard copies, traditional and self-publishing but, also looking to see how the book fair worked for an unsolicited, (as of yet) unpublished author.
I didn’t approach any of the publishers themselves, I will admit I was slightly intimidated with their stands and their hurried looks. However, I did gleam the information that I needed from a question at Author HQ. A gentleman was approaching publishers trying to convince them to publish his book but, to no avail and he wished to know why. Quite simply he did not have an agent. For the main publishers having an agent is a must (except in exceptional circumstances) these days. So the book fair, while established for authors, is not a place where the author should seek to get themselves published; their agent should be the ones seeking to get them published.
So why go? If an author stands little chance of being published by an agent at the book fair what it the point in them attending? For the vital advice and information that is available to them not only about how to present a manuscript, self-publishing, how to make social media work for you (an excellent seminar I might add) but also about the whole industry itself.
Last year I was glued to Author HQ, I would sit down as soon as the first seminar started and I didn’t move for most of the day, moving met losing a sought after seat. This year Author HQ had listened to the demand on last year and expanded allowing more people access to the space. While many argued that moving it to the back of the hall away from the publishers was a step back for independent publishers I can see why it was done. With the sheer amount of authors more space was required and it needed to be moved; a practical solution to a problem. However, I also felt that Author HQ was lacking compared to last year.
The Independent Author’s panel contained the same the independent authors from last year answering the same questions with the same host. While this may have been vital for people attending for the first time I personally wanted to see some variance. All three were established Independent authors who have been for some time and I feel that having someone who has perhaps just started out would have added to the panel and opened up discussions. Much has changed in the past few years and new independent authors will have different experiences compared to them.
The “Why did we Publish these debuts” talk was engaging and different. The agent and publisher talked about what they were looking for and the reasons why debut novelists are so important, something most of the publishing world seems to forget.
The variety of seminars outside of Author HQ was just as engaging and varied. Last year I enjoyed a talk about sexualisation within YA novels and this year I attended one on female representation within the graphic novel industry. The variety never fails to amaze me and the turn out to many of these is staggering.
I will never say I did not enjoy the book fair as it is a brilliant place to meet like-minded people and make contacts as you sit and wait for seminars to begin. However, I do feel something needs to be done with Author HQ. I enjoyed most of the talks I attended there but, it felt repetitive compared to other areas such as the Children’s Centre, which had one talk about why picture books should be looked at at all ages and not just restricted to younger children. An interesting talk considering at university we had just looked at picture books and their messages.