Writing is both an art and a craft. As such it’s something that requires inspiration, skill, ability and knowledge. So it’s important that writers sometimes leave their solitary garrets and go ‘fill up the well’ .
And that’s what I like about attending writing conferences, events and courses. I love the buzz and intensity and I really love those light-bulb, now-I-see moments that arise when listening to a speaker or conversing with a fellow delegate.
And so it was that from Wednesday to Friday of last week I was a virtual participant in a worldwide book event and then on Saturday I was an actual participant at a local workshop for writers. I got a huge amount out of both. I made contact with other writers and with professionals who had so much expertise to offer. I learned a lot.
IndieReCon: Indies at the London Book Fair
Last week was a big one in the world of publishing. It was the week in which the London Book Fair (LBF) took place. And it wasn’t just the big publishing houses who were there. Indie publishers – that is individual authors publishing their own books and small co-operatives of authors pulling resources and expertise in order to self-publish – had a real and significant presence there too.
The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) ran an Indie Author Fringe Festival in association with the LBF. It was delivered in live-streamed and watch-when-you-can formats over three days and it was called IndieReCon. So while some events were live and interactive and could be attended in person, some (including those live ones) were video (vlog) presentations that could be watched at your own convenience and some were written presentations in blog format where ‘attendees’ could leave comments. All the presentations, whatever the format, were designed to either inform self-publishers how to improve their products or to tell them about the sorts of services, expertise and marketing that are available to them – just as at any trade fair.
And on the third day of the fringe fest there was also an indie book selling event at Foyles bookshop where indie authors could promote and sell their own books.
So, despite being hundreds of miles from London, I was able to take part. And I’m very glad I did.
The online organisation was mostly slick and with only a few technical hiccups – and it’s important to bear in mind this was a first time and a unique event.
Below is a roundup of the events, talks, discussions I attended.
- Discussion between ALLi founder Orna Ross and Smashwords (eBook publisher/distributor) chief, Mark Coker. It was a good introduction to e-publishing for those who’ve not done it before and a good round up/reminder of the pros cons and possible future developments for the more experienced.
- David Farland shared his recipe for fiction that sells well.
- Ben Galley led a lively and useful interactive discussion on online bookstores.
- Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware did a live session on the need or otherwise to register copyright.
- Miral Sattar gave a talk on the basics of online book selling – excellent for first-timers.
- David Penny and Joel Friedlander shared an often amusing, as well as enlightening, conversation on the principles of good book design. As Friedlander said, the design should be so good the reader doesn’t notice it. He also flagged up his Book Construction Blueprints available free on his site bookdesigntemplates.com
- Guido Caroti also did a useful presentation on cover design and on copyright issues around covers.
- Neil Baptista of Riffle and Katie Donelan of Book Bub gave good advice on how to optimise your book for inclusion on their promotional sites.
- One of the best talks, for me, was the one given by Rebecca Swift of the Literary Consultancy. She stuck her head above the parapet by addressing quality in self-publishing. She made comparisons with the Victorian era’s Penny Dreadful novels. She wasn’t dismissing or deriding self-publishing, but she was making a plea for high ethical standards of editing, for good content both genre and literary and for expert reviewers. She made the point that it shouldn’t be the writers with backgrounds in marketing and with money to spend who flourished. Good thought-provoking stuff.
- Other highlights were Jessica Bell on self-editing. As an experienced editor as well as a writer she provided a first-class editing checklist which I’ll definitely be using. Ricardo Fayet advised on finding and working with publishing professionals such as editors. Yen Ooi’s excellent ‘What is your Message?’ addressed how to grab readers’ attention. She talked about the importance of crisp, precise description of your book and how to apply it. She suggested thinking in terms of newspaper headlines followed by a suggestion of content. Jay Artale advised on the use of Pinterest for authors – something I’d been wondering about. And finally, Robin Cutler’s piece on getting your manuscript together and on the four most lucrative genres was also interesting and helpful. And finally, author, poet and campaigner Dan Holloway performed his outstanding new poem calling for social diversity in publishing. You can read it here.
All of the above people have their own websites, blogs, twitter (etc) accounts and I recommend you check out any who grab your interest. It’s also my understanding that most of the events will be available to view on the ALLi/IndieReCon website within the next fortnight.
Orna Ross and her team and all the presenters deserve a very big thank you for all the hard work they put into this successful event.
Emergent Writers Workshop
Then, on Saturday, I was off out into the real world to a local arts centre for a day’s workshop on self-editing for novelists. This was run by community interest company, Emergents, which as XPONorth offers support to writers in the Scottish Highlands and Islands. Novelist, literary agent and editor, Allan Guthrie delivered the workshop. Now, when I was at the Scottish Association of Writers Conference at the end of March, I’d attended an interesting and informative workshop given by Allan on the topic of getting published (which I wrote about here) so I had high expectations.
I wasn’t disappointed. It was superb and I came away with sheets and sheets of notes and again, I learned a lot.
Writing can be a lonely pursuit. It’s easy to let self-doubt eat away at motivation, to wonder if it’s worth it. It’s easy to be daunted by all you don’t know. It’s easy to get stuck. Having a network of fellow writers and of publishing professionals is vital. And striving to improve is vital. So for me those four days were sound investments in my writing. I learned so much and my own writing-well is full to the brim once more.
If you’re a writer, or other type of creative artist, how do you ensure you keep learning, developing and continue to be motivated?