Friday, 25 April 2014

Seminars for Authors - an overview from LBF 2014

By Gillian Hamer

As part of the Author HQ section at London Book Fair, I attended three seminars aimed at independent and self-published authors. Whilst I didn’t learn too much I didn’t already know, it was good to get confirmation that as a collective, Triskele are doing much of the right thing, and it was also interesting to participate in Q&A’s with other authors in similar positions.


Speaker - Paul Andrews (CEO - AUK Ltd)

A round table session for authors, discussing marketing options and advice from a PR agency right at the centre of advertising for clients and publishers.

Lots of advice given about the importance of networking. How to use Twitter and Facebook author pages to their best potential. Also the importance not only of an easily accessible website, but how add-on mailing lists are crucial for building followers. A mention was also made to Google + and Pinternet to again build a ‘conversation’ with your readers and offer them insights into your world rather than bombard them with ‘buy my book’ messages that ultimately alienate followers.

Blogs were given a high priority, to be used as a connection port with your readers, to use them in competitions, giveaways and price promotions ahead of other readers. A discussion on the usefulness of blog tours with other authors seemed to conclude that they may have had their day and did not have any direct benefits to either increased followers or extra sales.

Paul Andrews discussed options his own agency used and how it was important to target the right audience. He recommended selected use of magazine advertising, targeting genres or regions who may be interested in your content. He also gave tips on how to get the best deal from magazines (an early enquiry followed by last minute booking.) Also recommended were book trailers, easy to produce with today’s technology, to offer something different to readers.

A direct question about paid promotions like BookBub and newly formed sites springing up, led to a round table discussion about cost versus sales - making most such promotions unaffordable. Paul Andrews did not think that any other site was established enough yet to be charging large amounts for advertising and said to be cautious before committing to this form of paid adverts. He also explained how the key benefits of promotions on KDP Select via Amazon no longer had the added benefit of boosting a book up the paid charts when the promotion ended.

In summary – mailing lists and magazine adverts/editorials were the current best performing marketing avenue.


Speaker - Lisa Logan (Partner – Head of Media & Entertainment, GATELEY Solicitors)

A seminar led by leading solicitors, Gateley, about film and television rights from the perspective of authors, agents and publishers.

Ten sections were discussed:

1. What is an option?
2. When to pitch?
3. Options Fee / Purchase Price
4. Type of Rights
5. Prequels, sequels and spin-offs
6. Warranties and undertakings
7. Net profits
8. Credits
9. Option Exercise
10. Turnaround

The adaption of a book to TV or film is probably an author and / or publisher’s biggest ambition. It was eye-opening to analyse just how many successful movie franchises, blockbusters and some of the highest rated television shows that actually started life as books. With such huge monetary amounts in the industry, it is arguably the most lucrative revenue source for writers and publishers.

The seminar discussed all aspects of the process of adapting a book into TV or film from drafting the correct type of option agreement to negotiating licences for literary rights and advertising agreements.

There was a lot of information to take in here. Simple topics such as ‘What is an option?’ were not actually simple at all once all the different options had been discussed and analysed. Issues of intellectual property and brand exploitation needed careful attention. Much of the legal jargon I’m afraid went a little over my head, although the seminar brought home to me the importance of having good legal protection especially for indie-authors who are mostly un-agented. Lisa Logan gave a series of stories about writers who had not retained correct legal advice and how this could leave an author not only out of pocket but without rights and vulnerable in a competitive world.

Some of the information given here was, for me, either obvious or not applicable for my own personal circumstances. However, I found the information given about when and out to pitch interesting and learnt about the importance of separating rights (film, TV, merchandise, digital etc.) There was also an in-depth discussion about option fees, and the importance of negotiating the right deal for your book, against the final purchase price paid for the given rights.

Also, for writers like myself, who intend to write a series, it was explained how the option fee and purchase price may include sequels and prequels rights, and how important it is for the author or publishers to ensure these rights are retained or made subject of separate negotiations.

In summary – never give away associated rights to your book without professional advice.


Speakers – Authors, Katie Fforde (Romantic Fiction) Jo Fletcher (Science Fiction) and Manda Scott (Historical Fiction)

Lots of useful tips here from some hugely successful genre fiction writers. Interestingly, many of their answers echoed my own experiences and there was a feeling of inclusion, that all writers suffered similar trauma.

Discussing the biggest learning curve they’d experienced in their writing career, all three writers admitted that learning to accept feedback and the reactions to their first professional edit were something that stuck in their memory. From thinking that you had written the finished product to realising just how far away you were from a completed novel, took a lot of acceptance. And when asked about the easiest mistake many new writers fall into, they all agreed that rushing to finish a book and publishing too soon were the biggest pitfalls.

The writers discussed the specifics of their chosen genres. Jo Fletcher detailed how there was an added layer of difficulty for writers of fantasy and science-fiction. Not only did the story have to have a strong, well-paced narrative, driving the plot along, but it also had to settle the reader in the world the author created. It was also crucial to have strong, believable protagonists. It was interesting to hear Jo discuss the difference, as she saw it, between fantasy (a world that could never have been created) to science fiction (a world in a different place or time) and how it was the job of the author to get the reader on-board, so that that not only accepted, but believed, the world they inhabited throughout the novel.

Manda Scott tackled the topic of research. She explained that in order to believably set her novels in the chosen period, she had to absorb herself so much in the world her novel was set, that the language and settings became second nature to her. She also discussed how she handled the subjects of dialogue and language, and how it was unnecessary (and unwise) to use archaic language to enhance the read. As she explained, the language wasn’t archaic to the people living at the time, so why make it archaic to the reader today? And she also mentioned the dreaded ALL CAPITAL EMAILS that were the bane of the historical fiction writer – these being feedback from readers who are experts on the chosen period and will take great joy in pointing out your mistakes. So, despite the fall back of disclaimers, she advised to always check your facts as much as possible with experts of your own prior to publication and not to leave research to chance or rely on Wikipedia.

Katie Fforde introduced the topic of writing groups, online and real life, as support for writers of similar genres. She highlighted the benefits of groups such as the RNA (Romantic Novelists Association) It was discussed how to both give and handle critiques and how to improve your technical skill. She also discussed the success of her Katie Fforde bursary (two of her protégés were at the event) and the input she gives and benefits she receives, plus the personal satisfaction gained, from supporting up and coming authors.

An interesting Q&A followed with writers getting lots of feedback on their chosen genres and topics where to access further advice and information.

More on the London Book Fair 2014 in our June issue ...

1 comment:

  1. A good account of the seminars, two of which I also attended. They couldn't be anything but general, given the time limit, but some interesting views and key points.