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My London Book Fair…

Wrecked for many publishing professionals this year by volcanic ash, the LBF was for me an exciting first.

I followed the distress of others on Twitter as flights from every conceivable part of the world were stopped, particularly those from South Africa, the 2010 Fair’s market focus. But despite myriad appointments with Australians, Finns, Germans, etc. cancelled, there was one benefit I heard from several professionals: they had time to talk in depth with those who managed to get there, to drink a relaxed cup of  coffee, to meet old and new friends.

Barcoded in at Earls Court entrance and clutching my grey and blue guide, I set off through the vast halls to find fellow Tweeter Sam Missingham (@Samatlounge) from The Bookseller and promptly ran into two others: Bridget Coady (@beecee) and Carole Blake of Blake Friedmann (@caroleagent). Sam kindly gave me an exclusive Bookseller Twitter book bag (Many thanks, Sam!) and after a further chat with Carole, I set off for my first seminar – Has British Fiction become Risk Averse?

Chaired by Antonia Byatt, the panel consisted of Isobel Dixon (Blake Friedmann), author Kate Mosse and Alison Samuel, former publishing director at Chatto & Windus (Random House). In respect of literary fiction, it was publishing and retail that had become more risk averse rather than the writers. Both large houses and independent publishers had to act commercially – after all, buying and publishing any book was a gamble! Prizes were essential for promoting literary fiction, which examined ideas and themes rather than concentrating on plot and characters so familiar to commercial fiction.

After a quick sandwich, I was thrilled to listen to Ian Rankin chatting about his life and books. His witty, casual and down to earth manner belied both his great talent and hard work in giving us Rebus, amongst others.

I squeezed in sessions (literally – both were packed out!) on Marketing and the Importance of Promoting your Book by Gareth Howard  of Authoright PR and Practical Advice for Authors given by Rebecca Winfield  of Luxton Harries Literary Agency. These both took place in the author lounge – a welcome retreat for tired feet!

So what did I make of it and was it worth it?
I went there, with my planned schedule, aiming to get a feel of the industry, to increase my knowledge, to talk to people and, of course, to meet up with fellow  Twitterers. All this I did. But I got a lot more. Although it was a trade show, and it was obvious that many meetings were prescheduled business deal-makers,  what struck me was the friendliness and willingness to talk of all those I got chatting to, whether on the stands or at the coffee shops.

As a newbie to this world, I am not yet cynical or blasé, so despite my sore feet I was very satisfied with my day out.

Heigh, ho! Back to the writing…

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