How authors can optimise their time at the London Book Fair next week

By Helen Lewis, co-founder of The Author School hosting a full day of classes on Monday 11th April to help you make your book the success it deserves to be!

You’ll no doubt have been told by lots of people that the London Book Fair is huge. Well, they’re right! It’s absolutely massive! It’s almost impossible to cover it all in one day if you plan to also stop for a coffee, a meeting, a chat with some exhibitors, or take in a seminar or two.

If you’ve only got one day to spare you need to plan your time well to make the most of every hour. I’ve attended as an exhibitor twice and a visitor twice, so I hope I have a fairly balanced perspective of what it entails. Here are my top tips for you, fellow authors, who are attending the Fair next week.

1.     Wear comfy shoes! You’re going to be doing a lot of walking. And take a bottle of water and a snack with you as the prices for refreshments are extortionate.

2.     Bring a spare bag with you that you can fill with business cards, flyers etc that you collect throughout the day.

3.     Take a notepad and pen. You will want to jot down notes during the seminars and keep a track of any interesting exhibitors.

4.     If you’ve already had books published, then take a couple with you to show relevant exhibitors. Don’t give them away until the end of the day – go up to the two people you think will benefit most from taking your book with them and explain you’ve saved them one of your two copies and would like them to have it. That should make an impression rather than just handing out copies randomly to anyone who will take one.

5.     This is NOT the Book Expo America, which is much more about the authors and avid readers, and much more about offering hundreds of pre-publication copies (proofs) of new books due out later this year (or even 2017) to queues of book fans. Exhibitors will have a lot of stuff to take back with them and won’t appreciate you giving them loads more…so choose wisely what you give away and to whom.

6.     Take business cards with you – if you can make them stand out then go for it. There are many ways of doing this from the colours you choose to the size, the images you put on there etc. Less is more at LBF, remember?

7.     Spend a couple of hours on Sunday or Monday before the Fair opens going through the list of exhibitors and coming up with a top 20 ‘must-see’ list. Now, they may not want to see you – this sounds harsh but is sadly true – and many will require you to book a meeting with them. Even if you had spent days emailing and calling the exhibitors you’d like to see (agents, publishers etc) they may not respond. Many of the bigger publishers have bouncers on the door (well, on the edge of their stand) to stop the “riff-raff” coming through!! I kid you not… So you may feel quite put off. I did the first time I went. Please make sure you have a strong idea of your goals and ambitions – what do you want to achieve by visiting these exhibitors? If you can’t talk to anyone on a particular stand, could you instead get a contact number and name of the right person to speak to after the Fair? Did you want to see a list of books they’re publishing to get an idea of whether your book(s) would fit?

Questions to ask yourself (ideally write down the answers and take them with you to keep you on track) before walking into the Fair:

 1.     Is this a research mission more than anything else? Do I need to understand more about topics a, b, c? Is my next book going to fit into one particular genre? Is there anything else like it out there right now?

2.     Which seminars are worth me stopping to attend?

3.     Do I want to arrange to meet anyone there (who isn’t exhibiting)? There are lots of places for coffee that make great meeting places and there’s no better place to meet to discuss all things publishing than LBF! Dig out those contacts and reach out to people, check whether they’ll be there on the day you’ll be there, and ask if you can buy them a quick coffee.

4.     Which are the 20 top exhibitors you really want to see?

5.     What is your primary goal? Do you want come up with a list of suitable agents and publishers, are you seeking marketing and publicity support, do you want to put together a self-publishing team, are you interested in publishing technology such as apps, audio etc?

If you’ve got any questions please feel free to email us at before or during the Fair. If you’d like to attend our full day of classes for just £65 in London the day before the London Book Fair kicks off please visit our website and buy your ticket online. The classes will explain in more detail what you can to do optimise your time at the London Book Fair but also how to work with editors, publicity tips and tricks, publishing and self-publishing options, meet a literary agent, learn from a Hollywood agent how to turn your book into a film…we have three places left for our class on Monday 11th.

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Enjoy the Fair! Maybe see you there :-)

Helen Lewis is the co-founder of The Author School (with Abiola Bello), a freelance journalist and director of Literally PR, a boutique publicity company that works in the sectors of food, drinks and books.


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