The Online London Bookfair

Suzie Eisfelder

Almost every year I’ve received an email offering me a free media pass to the London Bookfair. Each year I’ve looked at this email while turning a distinct shade of green. They always send it out only a few days prior to the event. And the problem is organising tickets and travelling over to London from Melbourne, it’s a long flight, rather expensive and a distinct challenge.

Some of those years I’ve messaged a friend in the area and asked if she could possibly attend in my stead. Erica was on the first Australian Discworld Convention Committee with me and is also in the writing industry. I knew she’d have a ball and write me something fabulous for my blog. Each year Erica has said she would be delighted to attend in my stead if she’d had time.

This year was different. This year they put the London Bookfair online. This year I took the plunge and accepted their kind offer of a media pass.

I had a blast!

It turned out that they were screening most of it live but also leaving it online, for all those who had a ticket, until the 16th July. Some presenters have permission to upload to their YouTube channel. That’s two weeks to view sixty nine ‘On Demand’ webinars, each one somewhere between half an hour and a little over an hour. I didn’t manage to view all of them, but the ones I was able to watch were be fascinating.

When I say ‘live’ I don’t mean it was all live. They did something very clever to minimise risk. Online conferences can suffer from a number of problems which all include technology. One day I was running tech on a religious service when my internet went down, thank goodness I had fellow techs and Zoom automatically reallocated hosting privileges to the first fellow tech who had come in after me so no-one knew I was gone for the few minutes it takes to reboot the router. What the organisers of this conference did was to pre-record most of the webinars and then play them at the appointed time. They then added a live Q&A session after some of the webinars. The mix of pre-recorded webinars combined with a live Q&A session seemed to work well.

I only managed to see a couple of webinars with their associated Q&A at the scheduled time. I was able to ask questions, if only I had questions I wanted to ask. Most of the sessions I saw were what they call ‘On Demand’ and I had to put up with not being able to ask questions, but able to listen to any question read out loud by the panel and then their answer. It worked and was still good. Sometimes there were no questions.

The entire conference was divided up into a number of tracks. These were Keynote, Industry Insights, Digital Technology: What’s Next for Publishing, People Development: Re-Skilling Our Industry, Children’s & Edutainment, The Scholarly Stream, In conversation with… IEA Award Winners, Authors: Central to Our Business, Literary Translation: Making Words Travel, English PEN Literary Salon, Illustrator focus, The Business of Books and Right Focus. I tried to watch something from each track but I didn’t really keep a list, some of the sessions (webinars) covered several different tracks.

Part of this conference is networking and it is possible to keep track of who views your session and contact them via email afterwards. I kept my profile fairly short on the London Bookfair website as it was my first time and I had no idea what to expect. I did mention that I blog about books. To date only one company has contacted me about viewing their webinar and we’re going to have a discussion very shortly so I can have a demo of their product. I was open about what I do and told them I’d write about the positive and negative aspects of their product. I’m hoping others will also contact me but I’m not going to hold my breath, some companies are more proactive about follow up after conferences than others.

There were sessions devoted to networking. I didn’t manage to get to any of them which makes me sad, but I can’t do everything. The Participants Directory is divided up into two lists: Exhibitor Directory and; Product Listing. With 70 Exhibitors there is something for everyone to enjoy. I’ve clicked into one at random and found the Academy of Natural History from Moscow, Russia. It has a short biography and a rotating list of their products. You can click into each listing, the one I clicked into (at random) has a link to a Google Drive. Yes, of course I clicked further, why not! I see a number of PDF files of this specific book, but I can’t read anything except the translation of the heading because my Russian is not up to snuff. When I go back to the top of the London Bookfair website and click on Product Listing I find there are 2,092 products listed. I have looked at a few pages, but it’s a lot of products and I ran out of energy and time. When I publish this article I need to finish writing some instructions.

I managed to view a number of sessions which would help authors improve how they market their books, and also how they understand some of the legal aspects of writing and publishing. All absolutely invaluable to writers. Some of the suggestions for marketing are to build a database and send a newsletter directly to your database. Apparently some people struggle with sending newsletters…I resemble that. And to help make it easier they suggested to create a persona, a character who might be totally different to you and might not even like your books, a character who could write your newsletters for you. This has the added advantage of giving you more writing experience. I don’t care who you are your writing is always getting better, the more you write the better you get.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I hope The London Bookfair is online again next year and that they offer me a free media pass. I promise I will endeavour to take advantage of some of the offerings I missed this year. If you’re in the publishing industry it is an event that is a must to attend and if they present this online next year I urge everyone to get a ticket. Presented in this manner it doesn’t matter what time zone you’re in you can still attend and get good value for money.

I have created a YouTube video so you can have a look at the website as it stood this year. When I shot the video there were no sessions available as the video was an after thought and all the sessions had been removed. You still get a good idea of how it works.

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