The London Book Fair (#LBF) is one of the world’s top book markets. Hundreds of agents, publishers and film producers all chasing the latest and newest manuscripts.
To choose only ten key takeaways is tough. We came away with many ideas. Not surprisingly, we didn’t agree with everything we were told – we do like to disrupt here at Collab Writers. So, reader beware, some of the take away dishes below contain artistic licence – not everyone likes pineapple on their pizza, nor should we be told that something’s good for us. We want you to decide for yourselves!
1. Buck the trends
Write what you want to write / what you know – let your book feed you. Get into the flow. We all know crime and thrillers are top of the pops – but do you want to write it? Maybe historical fiction or memoir flexes your writing muscle, or non-fiction. Remember that there is no one size fit’s all. We were hanging out with a retired Mi6 Commander at the fair who is top of the Australian best seller list for his ‘work.’
2.Practice makes perfect
Get words on a page and enter competitions. We have never written as much as when we were writing ‘Consequences’ on our daily commutes. And, the more we wrote, the more we wanted to write. Don’t be afraid to go off piste and write short pieces like flash fiction – these are ‘easy wins’ as we like to call them at Collab. We will be doing a piece on competitions so you can diarise them. We will also be running some competitions of our own to help you get started and practice in a safe space.
3. You can make a living as a writer
We learnt a lot at #LBF19 about this – from applying for grants to appearances at schools / bookshops / events. Did you know you can get paid to take time off to write? You can apply for grants from The Authors Foundation, The Arts Council and Development Agencies. We’re also going to throw in ‘Europe’ whilst we still can. As one of our Collab Writers informed us at the fair, Leonard Cohen got money to pursue his writing career!
4.Remember to READ books in your genre
Whilst your idea might be fabulous because it has yet to be written, and we agree it might be – read what sells as it is an indication of what people want to read. It is also a great way to learn the craft. Whilst you are there, check out the publisher and agent (if they have one) and grab yourself a copy of the Writers & Artists Year Book where you’ll find more detail about what they want.
5.The importance of contacts
Connect with other writers through writing / creative groups like Collab Writers. Not surprisingly, this permeated the conference, lonely writers not knowing where to meet like-minded creatives, screenwriters to turn their book into a movie, illustrators to design their book covers….you can attend your local writer’s group and your very own, Collab Writers. Tell your friends, we have monthly networking events for starters.
6. We all love D.I.Y. so why not edit your own work
You can edit your own work. Consider the voice you are writing in and consistency throughout. Check the pace of your work – don’t give everything away upfront – people will stop reading! Remember to dangle the thread of tension. Overwrite – cut out the flab! And, show don’t tell – your screenwriting contacts can teach you about this. For your cover design, look at what sells – check your local bookshop for the top books in the genre you are writing in – something completely different might look unprofessional.
7. Publishers have open submission days
That’s right peeps – if you’ve yet to secure an agent, or just don’t want to share your spoils with one, find out when publishers you are interested in have their open submission days. Many now have them. Tailor your submission carefully and follow their guidelines to the letter! If you are submitting the first three chapters submit the first three not the 1st, 5th and 13th. Give them something they want to read in those chapters and if it’s boring – rewrite! Remember to make your synopsis short – a page will suffice.
8. Your audience might want to listen to you
More and more people are listening to stories via audio books, podcasts and spotify. If you like a statistic, that’s 5.9 million in the UK (c11% of the population). This is especially so for men aged 18-35. There are some genres that lend themselves more easily to audio than others. For example, non-fiction and crime are very popular. If you’re signing a contract negotiate your audio rights or better still, self/indie publish and hang onto them!
9. You’re your own best PR
Brand YOU – now this is where we’ve gone off piste (and it’s such fun!) There was an underlying suggestion that whilst self/indie published authors are doing well, they rarely do as well as represented and traditionally published authors. Collar Writers think it’s time to buck this trend – we met dozens at the fair who were making a decent living. No-one, not even your agent you’re paying £2k to a month knows you or your work as well as you do. Have confidence and believe in what you’re writing.
10. Self-publishing isn’t the dirty word (albeit hyphened) it used to be.
The stigma of the ‘vanity/self publishing’ label is fast becoming invisible ink. A number of publishers at the fair admitted that it demonstrates that you’ve got the metal and the stamina to survive in the book eat book world! So, don’t be put off getting your work out there. And, there is an increase in the popularity of Indie imprints which is good news for Collab Writers who are looking to set up fiction and non-fiction imprints.