Why Indie authors should attend the London Book Fair

14th April, 2023

6 min read

Why Indie authors should attend the London Book Fair

Why Indie authors should attend the London Book Fair

Written by:

Jeremy Thompson

The London Book Fair is an annual event taking place in London where the UK and international publishing industry come together to exhibit, sell rights, do deals and network. Large and indie publishers have stands, showcasing their lead titles and authors during the three day exhibition that takes place at the Olympia Exhibition Centre. Agents and rights professionals have tables in the international rights centre, where deals are done on international rights for books to be published in other territories. There are also companies exhibiting who provide services to the publishing industry - software, printing, tech solutions – to help the book publishing process easier or better. Finally, there are seminars and theatres (basically learning zones) where authors and publishers run and attend sessions on all aspects of publishing and writing.

Are indie authors welcome at the London Book Fair?

In recent years, the London Book Fair has expanded to include areas such as Writers’ Block and Author HQ, which act as hubs to educate and inform authors, be those mainstream, new authors or self-publishers. There is also a full seminar programme of talks about publishing in all its forms. In 2023 these include sessions targeted at authors such as:

  • Keeping up with social media, what's an author's best tool?
  • The big indie author data drop – how much do self-published authors earn?
  • Preparing for publication
  • Indie publishing, the creative heart of the industry.

Historically, the London Book Fair was not especially indie author-friendly, especially with regards to those self-publishing. It sometimes felt a bit like a club where if you did not have an invite or appointment, you were not welcome. But this has totally changed – and reflects the changing attitude to writers and the indie sector in publishing more generally. Now at the London Book Fair, authors can find plenty to do and see to help them publish successfully IF they do their research first. We say IF as it’s a vast space and can take a while to get your bearings and understand how all the different parts of publishing slot together. So use the London Book Fair website to identify those exhibitors you know want to talk to (maybe make appointments upfront), and use the ‘what's on’ page to highlight the talks that are relevant to you. Bear in mind that this is primarily a business-to-business event, where publishers are there to talk to their suppliers, partners and other publishers. They are not looking to sign up new authors who walk in. It is also not the forum to try to sell copies of your book. It is, however, a great event at which to increase your knowledge about publishing, book marketing, distribution and sales, and to find partners to help you along your publishing journey. If you go with that mindset, you will have a successful day.

What not to do as an author at the London Book Fair

Having attended the event for over 16 years, there are some pointers we recommend you keep in mind that will ensure you have a beneficial Fair:

  • The ‘big 5’ publishers' stands are not designed for walk ups. You are unlikely to see someone influential to talk to about your book without an appointment. More so with the rights area - to get to talk to the agents and rights professionals who hang out there, you will also need an appointment (and the right type of entry badge). However, publishing service providers, such as Troubador  and the Book Guild, KDP and others are open and welcoming to authors who are looking for advice or guidance.
  • It's not a bookshop – while the exhibition hall is full of beautiful books, these are for display, nor for sale. It is not the venue for an author signing or book launch.
  • It is not free to attend for most visitors – it can be expensive to get in. If you go, make the most of it by pre-planning what you want to do, the sessions you want to attend and the exhibitors you want to talk to. Use the London Book Fair website as your essential planning tool.
  • Take business cards or electronic business cards. Don’t carry around heavy manuscripts or multiple copies of your book with you – people won’t have time to look in any detail on the day, and often don’t want to be left a copy of a manuscript on stand (for storage and security reasons). They are more likely to take details and follow up afterwards. If you leave material on a publisher’s stand, and they agree to look at it, ensure it has your name and contact details attached to it.
  • Be professional. It’s a business event, so approach others in a professional manner.

Meet us at the 2023 London Book Fair

At Troubador we have been exhibiting at the London Book Fair for 16 years, with our stand displaying our latest titles, and fully crewed by our helpful staff who are there to answer any questions about self-publishing. Visit us at Stand 2D62 (near the Tech Theatre). Our sister company, The Book Guild Ltd, are also attending this year, and can be found on the Independent Publishers’ Guild stand (booth 6E70).

Good to know before you go

  • Unless you have a gratis ticket or a code to register for free, it is expensive to attend the Fair. Once registered, you will need to print off a visitor badge which is valid for all three days. As it is so expensive to get in, if you go, make the most of it by pre-planning what you want to do. As well as the London Book Fair itself there are writing / publishing conferences happening over the same period, which cost extra to attend, so make sure you understand what ticket you are booking.
  • In 2023, the London Book Fair runs from 18-20th April at Olympia, London (Kensington).
  • Know exactly what you are attending for and what you hope to get out of it.
  • Wear comfortable footwear – you’ll be doing a lot of walking. The cafes in Olympia get busy, often with long queues and not always enough seats. Pace yourself!

Why should authors go to the London Book Fair?

We say, go to the London Book Fair because you want to experience the world of publishing and books. Attend seminars and talks, browse books, covers and trends in publishing by absorbing the books on display. Attend the events at the author HQ – but do your research. Using the London Book Fair as a chance to chat to exhibitors on their stands and understand if the services they offer will suit you and your project. As a checklist consider the following questions when browsing or chatting to the author service companies who are exhibiting:

  • Do you want in person support and a more full service model, or do you want to upload and manage your own files with online support?
  • Use your time at the London Book Fair to make sure you understand the differences between, say, KDP and Ingram Spark, POD and full service publishing or self- and partnership models.
  • What marketing and distribution are on offer?
  • What are the costs? Get comparative quotes.
  • Look at customer testimonials and reviews after the London Book Fair to help you decide what service will work best for you.
  • Look at the quality of the books they have on display.

We hope you found this an interesting overview of all you can achieve if attending The London Book Fair 2023.