An Author’s Guide to the London Book Fair

Author & publishing advisor Helen Hart

Helen Hart, author and director of SilverWood Books

With the UK’s biggest book fair just a week away, I’m delighted to welcome author and SilverWood Books publishing director Helen Hart to Off The Shelf to offer useful information to help authors make the most of their visit:

The London Book Fair is an exciting annual event spanning three days – usually in April. It’s a huge and bustling international trade fair where almost 25,000 publishing professionals gather to do business. There are seminars, conferences, workshops, high profile author talks, book launches … and the occasional freebie (it’s almost impossible to come away without a canvas tote bag decorated with a well-known publisher’s logo and a clutch of free bookmarks, posters, or – if you’re lucky – paperbacks).

What’s in it for authors?

Authors often ask if the London Book Fair is worth attending, because the LBF is primarily a trade fair. I think it is, partly because it’s always nice to immerse yourself in the world of books, but mostly because there’s a lot for authors to see and do. The seminar programme is usually excellent and this year is no exception – for starters you can learn about book cover design, new developments with e-books, and developing your author platform.

If you’re thinking of publishing your own book, there are plenty of people at the LBF who can offer assistance and useful information. Most of the reputable self-publishing companies exhibit, and SilverWood Books has a cosy booth on the Independent Publishers Guild stand where we’ll be offering free publishing advice sessions and a general chat over coffee or tea. Some of our most successful and pro-active authors will also be there, sharing their experiences and wisdom.

How you can make the most of the London Book Fair

  • Be smart and sophisticated in your appearance, but also wear comfy shoes and layers – it’s hot in there and has a hard concrete floor.
  • Research before you go – check out the exhibitor catalogue on the LBF website.
  • Decide which self-publishing providers you like the sound of and check out their websites before you go. Are they showcasing books on their homepage (indicating they’re books-orientated and not just interested in selling you services)? Is information presented in a friendly and interesting way? Is their book cover design of a similar standard to traditional/mainstream publishers? Can you contact them easily and make an appointment?
  • Devise a list of questions and take it with you so you can make sure you cover everything in your meeting (which will probably be fairly short).
  • Make sure you have useful information to hand to give them, because they’ll want information that can help them to help you – the word count if your manuscript; how many images/tables/charts are to go in the book (if any); whether you want paperback, ebook, hardback, or all three; when you hope to launch your book; what plans you have for promotion; what sort of social networking are you already using.
  • If you’re looking for a traditional publishing deal you should pinpoint publishers (or agents) you think would be interested in your book. Check out larger publishers and agents who you think might be interested, but don’t neglect the small indies – the Independent Publishers Guild stand will have displays by quite a few.
  • Make contact well in advance – traditional publishers are there to showcase their own new titles rather than to seek out new talent (it’s primarily a business-to-business fair) but it could be worth seeing if you can make appointments with the right people to discuss your book.
  • Don’t expect to be able to chat easily with literary agents – they tend to spend almost all their time up in the International Rights Centre (which is closed to the public) so an appointment is vital.
  • If you’ve already self-published, decide what you want to achieve at the LBF. Is it to meet publicists who can give your promotion a boost? Or do you want to chat to distributors and wholesalers to find out more about getting your book into bookshops?
  • Take copies of your Bookseller Information Sheet (sometimes called an Advance Information sheet, or AI) to give to the right people – this contains all the essential information about you and your book and presents you in a professional way.
  • Also have other useful information at your fingertips, such as press coverage and your book launch or other sales stats.
  • Don’t take lots of copies of your book, which could get heavy and cumbersome – instead give out the information sheet and simply show one copy of the book to everyone, but don’t leave it with them – if they want a copy, take their card and send a copy afterwards with a follow up letter.
  • Take business cards away from each stand and after each appointment so you have up-to-date contact details, or named people to make contact with afterwards (and send your book to).

Enjoy yourself, and have fun. And we’d be delighted to see you at the SilverWood Books stand at the London Book Fair, so do drop us a line to book a publishing advice session, or swing by on the day!

Thank you very much, Helen, for that practical and timely advice. If anyone has other tips to offer, please do feel free to add a comment below!



16 thoughts on “An Author’s Guide to the London Book Fair

  1. Thank you for some very useful advice!
    It will be my first visit to the LBF this year and I can only go for one day so I was just planning to find out what goes on so I’d be better prepared for next year. As a self-published author, finding publicists and distributors is probably my main objective. Your post has really got me thinking about how I should plan my day, thank you.

    • Hi Lindsey, thank you for commenting and I’m very glad to be of help! Have a great time at the Fair – and if any more tips occur to you once you’ve been, do me let know so that we can add them here for next year!

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  3. Thanks for the helpful tips, although I will not be there in person my book will be represented…other obligations but I believe there will be some interest.

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