Last week, I went to the London Book Fair for the first time. It’s a trade event, aimed squarely at publishers, but I was impressed with the number of seminars pitched at writers. There were even dedicated stands – ‘Authors HQ’, and the neatly named ‘Writers’ Block.’
The most anticipated event was ‘The Write Stuff’ where six brave authors pitched their books to a panel of five agents – in front of an audience. It was billed as a dragon’s den for writers and rightly so. Authors had three minutes to cover the ‘hook’, the plot, characters, and a little about themselves. Oh, and what other books yours is similar to. A lot to pack into three minutes. But the advice from the agents was invaluable: hone that all-important ‘elevator pitch’; give us characters we can root for (or at least be fascinated enough to follow for the better part of 100,000 words) and of course, make sure the plot is killer.
Afterwards, I wandered around, admiring Olympia’s fabulous roof but slightly in awe of the scale of the show. All the big publishers were there: with editors installed at little white tables taking back-to-back meetings. They had it easy compared to the literary agents, however, who were crammed into a windowless hall with as much leg-room as a low-cost airline seat. (And the queues for coffee were decidedly long-haul.)
The fair is a three-day sales pitch, and the prize for most eye-catching stunt goes to Penguin who enlisted a Donald Trump-lookalike in a mocked-up Oval office to promote the new James Patterson thriller – co-authored by former president Bill Clinton.
I was hoping to score some swag – a tote bag here, and pen there. And there were even promises of free books, (at least, according to Twitter) but alas I didn’t manage to nab any. It was still worthwhile event though, and would definitely recommend it to other authors but with the following advice: wear comfy shoes, stay hydrated, and steer clear of orange-skinned men in red baseball caps.