Saturday, 16 April 2011

The London Book Fair and a bribe

Yes, it's that cover again - but bear with me, it's relevant.

I’ve always been partial to a little bribery and corruption as long as I’m on the receiving end of the profits, so for a change this will be a mercifully short blog which ends with an offer you may find it hard to refuse.

First, though, some abbreviated thoughts on the London Book Fair, around which I wandered aimlessly for two of its three days last week. We all know how many hundreds of thousands of books are being produced each year but, sitting in our studies or kitchens or attics or yachts or sheds or wherever as we scribble our masterpieces, we still manage to generate the notion that readers will snap up our babies the minute we let them out. But when you see row upon row of stalls, with crowds milling round them all, smartly dressed people sitting at tables with impressive document holders before them deep in earnest discussions with other movers and shakers, huge adverts for books by people you’ve already heard of and who hardly need the PR, you start to think that the wee label you’ve pinned to yourself which identifies you as an AUTHOR is the equivalent of wearing a yellow sack, ringing a bell and shouting ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ as you move through it all.

At the same time, it gives a sort of smug satisfaction that all these people are only here and only earning a living because writers write books. When it’s laid before you in this way, with translators, little independent publishers, foreign rights, niche markets, huge publishing empires and God knows what else, it’s a pulsating proof that the industry is enormous and dynamic. So vast, in fact, that you get this ambivalent feeling that your ambitions are presumptuous and yet there must be a wee corner in it somewhere for you.

But it doesn’t feel like the place that you can go up to someone on one of the stalls and say ‘Hey, I’ve written this great book. Want to read it?’ The response would range from a puzzled, concerned look to an old Anglo-Saxon invitation to go away. My impression, in fact, was that this wasn’t about books, but about deals. And that’s fine because that’s how it works. We just have to make sure one or more of our books is/are part of those deals.

Anyway, those are the impressions I came away with. Now to the bribery. I’ve already told you that The Sparrow Conundrum is supposed to be funny and I’ve encouraged you to contribute to the funds which will buy my tax haven property by buying it. But for five lucky people who haven’t, I have a little deal. On Smashwords, the ebook version sells for a ridiculously low $2.99 (about £1.80). It already has 2 5-star reviews on Amazon UK and is obviously the best and funniest book that’s been written in this room for well over a week. So … all you have to do is leave a comment on this blog. It doesn’t have to be long – just something to show you’ve been here. If more than five comments appear (dream on, Bill), I’ll put the names in a hat and choose five, each of whom will get a coupon code to buy the book at half-price. That’s $1,50 (90p) for a masterpiece. You’ve got until the end of the month. Good luck.


  1. Bill, anything for you. Seriously, though, considering John's book was there and your book was there, the London Book Fair can officially declare itself a success.

  2. Well, how can one refuse that offer? Great piece!

  3. "you get this ambivalent feeling that your ambitions are presumptuous and yet there must be a wee corner in it somewhere for you..."

    Oh yes, I know that feeling well, even without trawling round a book fair!

    So... are you glad you went? Was it worth it?

  4. Interesting post Bill. I quite fancy having a swaray around LBF one day just to see how it all works! Loving the Sprarrow Conundrum btw - I have a kindle copy - and if I get a quiet hour to myself in which to appreciate it and snigger to myself while reading - I'll finish it. Will do a review for you when I'm done.

  5. Well, that's a nice, upbeat way of looking at the LBF. I'd been led to believe that authors are very much pariahs in that environment but as you say, without us it wouldn't happen. And dang. I've already paid top dollar for my copy of your book.

  6. Did I miss out on a copy? You're on my to-buy list, I think you're even already in my cart on smashwords...

    I wanted to come to the LBF, but I couldn't afford it. I missed you, and John and Ellie and Judith and everyone else! WAH!

    Maybe next year...

  7. Enjoyed hearing about the LBF, Bill, and I'm not above a bit of bribery. Like Janice, I'd love to wander around the Book Fair one day soaking up the atmosphere.

  8. Loved hearing about the Book Fair, maybe one day I'll get there. For the next post d'you want to consider discussing your experiences at the US Embassy in pursuit of an ITIN. Oh, and don't bother putting me in the hat - got the book - worn the tee shirt etc etc.

  9. Maria, my book wasn’t there, but John’s was and we both gazed at it lovingly, so we definitely had a foothold there.

    Thanks Paige.

    Fiona, yes I’m glad I went. It’s too easy to form opinions of the industry from online stuff and exchanges of emails with publishers and agents. On reflection, seeing the big picture is a highly instructive experience.

    Janice, thanks for buying it and I’m glad it’s raising a snigger. If you could make that a full blown, embarrassing snort now and then, I’d appreciate it.

    I wouldn’t say we’re pariahs, Greta, but they don’t spread petals before our feet as we stroll down the aisles either. As for paying top dollar, we’re quits because The Iron Admiral is sitting cosily in my Kindle waiting its turn.

    You haven’t missed out, Tiger (or Princess, depending on your mood today, I suppose). Your name will be in the hat and, with the meagre uptake of the offer, chances at the moment look good. And I do appreciate being in the cart of the Tiger Princess.

    As for next year, now we know there are lots who are interested, we could maybe organize it better for us all to meet up.

    Rosemary and Chris, the same goes for you and the WS group – especially as Rosemary’s Dangerous Deceit will be published around then. And yes, Chris, the US Embassy was interesting – relatively quick, stress-free and actually entertaining, thanks to a taxman with a sense of humour and a line in stand-up style repartee.

  10. I'd always heard that authors were 'unwelcome' at the LBF (that's why my agent goes, she takes the flak so I don't have to). But then I did hear that a lot of authors went this year, I guess it's too good a marketing opportunity to miss.

    Off to Amazon now to take a look at your book...

  11. How can I not leave a comment for something like this? :)

  12. Jane, despite my comments, I didn't get the impression that we were 'unwelcome' - we just didn't seem to matter all that much. As for it being a marketing opportunity, I think I'd need some pretty intensive training to know how to make it that.

    Scary, nice to hear from you. I haven't visited your blog for a while - sorry. I don't even know if you've had your baby yet. (The rest of you, look away when I write sentences like that.)

  13. @Bill: I have noticed! Unloved and abandoned.
    Have not had the baby yet.

  14. Scary, if you're going to play the sympathy card, milk it for all it's worth - Unloved, abandoned, and PREGNANT.

  15. @Bill: I know. as soon as I got pregnant, my male readers left me. :))) too many mummy subjects, I guess. Only crazy nationalists remain to send abuse and insults...