From LBF to Pubsmart: Are Publishers & Authors Getting Closer?

In Discussion by Porter Anderson

Top image - Pub Perspectives #EtherIssue 15 April 2014 2

Table of Contents

  1. Our Live #EtherIssue Chat is Wednesday
  2. Are Publishers & Authors Getting Closer?
  3. Wednesday’s #EtherIs­sue at 11 a.m. ET / 4 p.m. BST
  4. Last Week’s Topic: Mind the Digital Gap

Our Live #EtherIssue Chat is Wednesday

Publishing Perspectives Editor in Chief Edward Nawotka and I will host a live Twitter chat on this week’s Ether topic(s) at 11 a.m. ET / 8 a.m. PT—and that’s 4 p.m. BST in London, 5 p.m. Berlin, Paris, and Rome. We’ll use the hashtag #EtherIssue as we do weekly. Join us and watch for @PubPerspectives and @Porter_Anderson on Twitter. Back to Table of Contents

Poet and author Dan Holloway and ALLi founder Orna Ross. Photo: Porter Anderson

Poet and author Dan Holloway and ALLi founder Orna Ross wait for the “Opening Up to Indie Authors” event to start at London Book Fair 2014. Photo: Porter Anderson

Are Publishers & Authors Getting Closer?

By Porter Anderson Like being shot out of a cannon, those of us who make the rounds of the spring trade show and conference season are all suited up and doing a fast turnaround between the just-closed London Book Fair and the PubSmart Conference.

As ever, London’s big show (#LBF14) was such a feast for the senses that you suspected you’d seen both everything and nothing as it ended. My pedometers (yes, two) logged more than 13,000 steps per day at Earls Court. I won’t be sorry that next year’s venue, Olympia, is a bit smaller.

And it should be interesting to see in 2015 whether progress has been made in integrating the two defacto camps that have become quite easy to spot on the LBF floor—publishers and authors. London’s Author HQ, as it was called this year (“Author Lounge” last year) was set again in the EC2 sector of Earls Court.

It was handy to the Tech Central area of the floorplan with its all-important Bar @ Tech, and I always like the roomier setting of EC2. But the area stands at quite a remove—as the pedometer clocks it—from the main floor on which crouch the condo-sized pavilions of the major publishers in EC1.

An event at London Book Fair's Author HQ draws an overflow audience. Photo: Porter Anderson

An event at London Book Fair’s Author HQ draws an overflow audience. Photo: Porter Anderson

As before, the author-programming area was bustling with seminars and workshops, this time from MidasPR, about all sorts of issues that confront authors: rights, self-publishing concerns, agent representation, and so on.

In many cases, the crowds at these events spilled out into the wide green carpeted aisles, just as happened last year.

Nearby, a gaggle of Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) members gathered at the shiny white Kobo stand for the launch of a new campaign and its guidebook, Opening Up To Indie Authors. ALLi founder Orna Ross spoke at the opening:

This book,  which Dan (Holloway) and Debbie (Young) have worked on for a long time to get it right, is short. It’s aimed at two audiences…those libraries, those prize-selection committees, those bookseller associations, indie bookstores…explaining to them what’s happening in the self-publishing world.

The presentation was highlighted by Holloway’s latest announcement that the media (still a plural word) don’t cover the interests and activities of the non-traditional publishing world. Of course, there we were covering, as usual. I stood not four feet from Holloway as he declared me and my clan nowhere to be seen. (I can prove it: Kobo’s delightful Camille Mofidi and Hugh Howey took pictures of me as I took pictures of them, dueling pixel pushers.)

Holloway also read a prepared speech invoking the Parable of the Good Samaritan, perched with his colleagues on the tiny stage appended like a windowsill with chairs to the Kobo stand. I’m not sure it all added up, but it was certainly good to see everyone.

And this points up one of the peculiar challenges of the non-aligned author corps these days. It is replete with people whose idea of value in literature seems to revolve around what Holloway termed “the wild, the brilliant, the flamboyant, and the flawed.” And some of these folk seem determined to reject any chance that such edifying material might find its way to market through a traditional route.

A crowd takes in a program inside the London Book Fair Author HQ pavilion, curated this year by MidasPR. Photo: Porter Anderson

A crowd takes in a program inside the London Book Fair Author HQ pavilion, curated this year by MidasPR. Photo: Porter Anderson

Indeed, Holloway went so far as to suggest that traditional publishing will never deliver the best material to the readership, saying, “Readers will never be exposed to something truly astounding and life-changing” as long as it’s left up to traditionalists (or to the failures of us feckless journalists, one assumes).

Did you know that “truly astounding and life-changing” creative moments come to us only through non-commercial, non-traditional channels? Neither did I.

Josh Malerman

Josh Malerman

Holloway, while a good fellow with whom I’ve had some grand comment exchanges, might want to consider doing a little reading from the traditional camp. And I have just the recommendation, the debut I’ve been talking up by author Josh Malerman, Bird Box. This impressive literary thriller—and what has Hitchcock done for us lately?—is out in the UK now and comes out on May 13 in the States. The book rested on a shelf probably no more than 250 meters from Holloway, on the wall of the capacious HarperCollins plantation in EC1 at London Book Fair.  (Its publisher in the States is Ecco Books, a Harper imprint.)

What might surprise Holloway—and I covered this in my interview with the author at ThoughtCatalog.com—is the fact that Malerman is not an independent or self-producing author and doesn’t want to be, thanks very much. He’s two decades into his writing career, roughly Holloway’s age, an extraordinary conversationalist I can’t wait to meet in person, only now seeing something in print…and he’s not given to heading out to make community with the entrepreneurial authors that ALLi so ably represents.

This is not a criticism of these entrepreneurial authors, mind you. Malerman is quite entrepreneurial in his own way, and I was perfectly glad to see the ALLi crowd getting together again at LBF for a moment of their communal life.

It is a reminder, however, that all talented and/or skilled authors don’t take the same chairlift up the mountainside. The “Opening Up to Indie Authors” event signals more than the release of the book on the topic as “a guide for bookstores, libraries, reviewers, literary event organizers…and self-published writers.”

It also is a campaign, with a petition at Change.org to “Open Up To Self-Publishing Indie Authors.”  The petition is to be delivered to (per the Change.org list) libraries, the American Booksellers Association, UK Booksellers Association, Canadian Booksellers Association, Australian Booksellers Association, literary festivals and book reviewers. Here is the text of this petition, the first-person voice being that of the petitioner:

I, and the Alliance of Independent Authors, urge you to find ways to include self-publishing writers as a matter of priority. As you know, more and more writers are turning to self-publishing and many such authors are producing work of proven value to readers. While recognising that there are challenges in incorporating such writers, it has become a necessity, if book stores, libraries, literary events and reviewers are to be inclusive of writers. And fully serving readers. I trust you will give this matter the attention it deserves.

As of this writing, the petition has 750 signatures. And mind you, Ross in her own comments, made practical sense of the intent, saying, in part:

There’s a fantastic infrastructure out there of libraries, of book reviewers…all sorts of people who love books, who are passionate about books, and act as a bridge between writer and reader…At this moment, it [the proverbial door to publishing acceptance] is opening, and in some places, it’s an open door already.

More needs to be done, though, clearly, from the viewpoint of independent authors who do have few evident ways forward in that bookish infrastructure Ross is describing. What was interesting is that nearby in EC1, seven of the world’s most successful entrepreneurial bestsellers beamed down upon the traditional publishing floor. The line on the massive banner, maybe 25 feet long, read:

These bestselling authors (more than 15 million books sold!) are at Booth T730. Why aren’t you?

From left, Hugh Howey, Jack Wilder, Jasinda Wilder, Bella Andre, Liliana Hart, Stephanie Bond.

From left, Hugh Howey, Jack Wilder, Jasinda Wilder, Bella Andre, Liliana Hart, Stephanie Bond, in a shot tweeted. Not pictured from the LBF Indie Bestsellers booth: Barbara Freethy and Candice Hern.

You can see this display in our top image today. Presiding from it over the westerly side of EC1 were the faces of Bella Andre, Stephanie Bond, Barbara Freethy, Liliana Hart, Candice Hern, Howey, and Jasinda Wilder, who was accompanied by her husband and diligent co-creator Jack Wilder.

Some of these big-selling authors will be with us at BookExpo America (#BEA14), May 29-31, in the uPublishU Author Hub, as a matter off fact, and others will be sharing a booth as they did at London. A distinction in this entrepreneurial program for authors at BEA is that they buy their spot in the Hub, a working base of operations, not the drop-by-for-a-seminar lounge format of LBF’s Author HQ.

But even as Holloway, Young, Ross and her group were launching their “Opening Up” campaign to rousing applause, these bestselling independent authors clearly were integrating their stories with those of the main traditional-publishing floor of London’s trade show. Holloway was saying:

This is a world that asks the wrong questions… This is a world that denies the reader full swathes of the outstanding. This is a world that has to change. And this is why opening up to indie authors is essential.

PubSmartAnd while the very launch of the campaign is proof that stigma still attaches to self-publishing (otherwise, there’d be no need to ask major sectors of the business to open up, would there?), some interesting signals lie ahead of us at Charleston—including some modest time-travel. Watch for the hashtag #PubSmartCon.

When I do a live onstage interview with keynote speaker Hugh Howey at PubSmart this week, he and I will be talking about his career from the time frame of 2011.

For me, it’s a chance to be three years younger. I am so there.

For Howey, it’s a way to get past the fact that his multi-Million Kindle Club ebook-selling status makes him an outlier among authors. Three years ago, of course, he wasn’t such an outlier. The major successes for which he’s so well known were still to come. We’re going back to 2011 to find out how he saw things then.

By pitching the interview at that point in time—at what he was feeling and thinking and doing at that point in his career—we’ll be much closer to the point at which many PubSmart conference attendees will be this week, and we think this reflection on “Hugh before he was Howey,” if you will, may be of special value to those struggling to find their way forward.

Author Joanna Penn, who met the #US-based bestselling indpendents at the Fair, in fact, says it very well in her write-up, Lessons Learned From a Game Changing London Book Fair 2014, writing:

Hugh Howey makes the point often that the outliers are not the success story of self-publishing, that we should be talking about the thousands of indies making good money, decent money, reaching readers and loving their lives as authors. Absolutely. But I am one of those already, and for me, the outliers are also the inspiration.

Ross from ALLi will be with us at Charleston, as will many others from the art and business of publishing, and in a unique post-conference symposium, something unusual is going to take place. A “Post-Con Faculty Brainstorm Session” is going to bring together the various speakers and sponsor representatives of the conference to discuss ways forward. Represented in this group are, potentially, a number of small-publishing and author-service outfits with an outlook not unlike that of an author organization like ALLi. From the agenda of suggested topics for the symposium’s talks:

What are your takeaways from this event that will allow you to better serve clients? Are there opportunities among this group to form an entourage or two (or more)—four or five like-minded companies to begin exchanging posts, tweeting up each other’s content, etc.? [Collaboration] speaks especially to those in the start-up / small company space. Do there exist opportunities to co-op efforts beyond just conversations and content, meaning the actual “hard” costs of doing business? [How about] co-opting booths at industry trade shows?

Well how about that? After bestselling independent authors have shared booths at BEA and LBF, and will be working together in the Author Hub this year, here are smaller (by comparison to the majors) publishing and author-service outfits looking at trying to cooperate and come together in common efforts.

And on Wednesday, our live Twitter discussion, in fact, will come from Charleston and the PubSmart Conference, and I’d like your input on some of what will be discussed at the symposium. 

Back to Table of Contents

Headed from EC1 into EC2 (where the indies are) at London Book Fair. Photo: Porter Anderson

Headed from EC1 into EC2 (where the indies are) at London Book Fair. Photo: Porter Anderson

Wednesday’s #EtherIs­sue at 11 a.m. ET / 4 p.m. BST

Let’s start by considering where, in your opinion, the publisher-author relationship lies at this point.

  • Do you feel that the ALLi campaign to encourage Opening Up to Indie Authors is the right way to go? Is this petition approach a good idea?
  • Do you feel that independent authors and the rest of the publishing world are as far apart as the ALLi project might suggest?
  • Is it possible, as emblemized by the huge banner with the bestselling independent authors at London Book Fair, that more integration than is expected is already happening?
  • Is it possible for independent authors to lose sight of more adventurous, innovative work and changing attitudes in publishers, just as publishers, some say, have lost sight of authors and their creative centricity in the business?
  • And what would you like the symposium of author-service and other publishing outfits to consider? How would you feel about them working together as many authors are doing in organizational settings like ALLi?

We’d love your input on Wednesday at 11 a.m. Eastern, 8 a.m. Pacific, 4 p.m. BST on hashtag #EtherIssue — see you then from PubSmart. Back to Table of Contents

Last Week’s Topic: Mind the Digital Gap

Well, we almost fell into the digital gap, ourselves, during our effort to mount an #EtherIssue discussion live from the London Book Fair’s media center.

Amid apologies on all sides, the wi-fi in the press room was in trouble and my own hotspot couldn’t get a strong signal. So my special thanks to those who braved a sort of flickering #EtherIssue session.

Since we were a small group and not always in very good touch, I’ll just offer a few well-targeted points that were predicated on our story, London Book Fair: Mind the Digital Gap — about Orna O’Brien’s London Book Fair-opening Publishing for Digital Minds Conference.

Our effort in this session was to determine whether any of us in publishing is doing enough to look past our great and rightly honored traditions of print to do more than replicate them with our digital capabilities. Our sturdy commenters had these things to say, among others:

Some good point made despite our choppy connections, and thanks again to the great bunch who joined us. See you Wednesday!  

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Porter Anderson is a Fellow with the National Critics Institute, a 33-year journalist with several newspapers and three networks of CNN, as well as a producer posted to the Rome headquarters of the United Nations’ World Food Programme. His Issues on the Ether column appears here at Publishing Perspectives on Tuesdays, followed by an #EtherIssue live discussion on Twitter on Wednesdays. Anderson’s Writing on the Ether articles are read at Thought Catalog and he is a regular contributor to WriterUnboxed.com. He writes the Porter Anderson Meets column weekly for The Bookseller‘s Friday magazine in London with a live #PorterMeets Twitter interview with a newsmaker on Mondays. More about him is at PorterAnderson.com. Find him at Google+


Main image – Porter Anderson

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.