On Wednesday this week I got on a train and went to London for LBF. It was the first time I’d even considered going along to this mammoth book event – until very recently, LBF was the province of publishers and agents and other industry professionals, but writers, while not exactly barred from attending, weren’t encouraged.
Last year all this changed when Author HQ saw some of the most popular seminars of the entire fair, with standing room only in many events. The Alliance of Independent Authors were key to this, having launched at LBF the year before. When I saw the photos of fellow Alli members at LBF 13 I knew I had to make the effort and attend this time around. And I’m really glad I did.
There are gazillions of blog posts about LBF doing the rounds, so I’m going to keep mine short and relevant. Here are my top five highlights of the day – and photos!
#1 – Meeting so many people in real life that I know so well on Facebook and online. This was easily the best thing to come out of the day, and I was amazed – genuinely gobsmacked – at how many people seemed really excited to meet me too :)
I met (in no particular order) Anne Allen, Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn (already a great friend in ‘real life’), Debbie Young, Alison Morton (over from France), Jessica Bell (all the way from Greece), Jane Davis, Roz Morris, Charlie Plunkett, Orna Ross and Karen Inglis. And each and every one of them was lovely.
#2 – Which brings me to highlight number 2: I met High Howey!!! He was standing behind me at one point, and I said to Lindsay, ‘I’m just going to go over and talk to him and get you to take a photo.’ He is such an incredibly nice man – humble about his own achievements and so supportive of other writers. And he was lovely, asking me all about my books and appearing genuinely impressed when I told him my figures to date. He was also lovely to Lindsay, and interested in all the prizes she’s won for her fiction.
Incredibly, Hugh made a reference to the chat we just had when he went on to give a seminar in Author HQ. Okay, I’ll just go on and say it: He referenced me twice! Not by name, but if you watch the video of Hugh’s seminar on Wednesday with Kobo’s Diego Marano you’ll hear him talking about a conversation he just had with an author here in the UK who has sold 20,000 books and is doing an MFA (US speak for Masters in Creative Writing). That was me!
#3 – My third amazing highlight of the day was the moment when Mel Sherrat said, ‘Joanne Phillips? I’ve heard of you. That book with the legs on the cover, right?’ (Or words to that effect, I was a bit dumbstruck at the time.) To understand the magnitude of this moment you have to know that Mel was in my Prima magazine this month and is a bit of a hero of mine, with her self-publishing story and down-to-earth honesty. (And her amazing hair cut – she looks fantastic.) She reacted to my flustered amazement with typical self-deprecating humour, but it was definitely a highlight of my day.
#4 – Lots of info and inspiration. When you attend a lot of seminars and workshops on a day like this – as I did – there’s a hell of a lot of information coming at’ya, and if you’re already fairly well immersed in the world of publishing – as I am – a lot of it will be stuff you’ve heard before. You can find yourself thinking, Yeah, yeah. Marketing plan. Reviews. Get on with the next book. Whatever. BUT, there will always be some nuggets of gold if you allow yourself to listen. You can read a lot of the same stuff on author’s blogs, but there is no substitution for the sheer energy of events like this, or for hearing the right thing at the right time said in the right way. For me, the nugget of gold was a point made by Paul Andrews of Andrews UK about book bloggers. It was like Boom! and I knew what I need to do next to market my books.
Oh, yes – and write a marketing plan. And get more reviews. And get on with the next book :) Just because you’ve heard it a million times doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing it all.
#5 – Highlight number 5 is: I was there. Last year, when I was looking at the photos on Facebook and on the Alli forums I really wished I’d been there too. This year I’m in the photos, I’m writing my blog about it, I’ve had the experience and I know first-hand what it’s all about. It was a challenge for me to even get there for a number of reasons (stacks of indexing work so restricted on time, family commitments competing for attention, sheer logistics of being away from 7am till 10pm and sorting out childcare etc, plus I really hate to travel and the underground is anathema to me). But I did it. It would have been really easy to not go – and cheaper, and less tiring – but I’m so glad I went. Will I go again next year? Maybe. Probably ;) If Hugh Howey’s going, then so am I.