The most interesting part of a publishing conference is normally the wrap-up session.
By then, you have worked out that all the authors are in the same boat: i.e. hoping to be mainstream published, but meanwhile contemplating going Indie.
Also, by this time the speakers have completed their promise to their marketing departments of pitching their own platforms.
This is also when you have worked out that--just like you--nobody really knows what they are doing.
So it was with a wish and a prayer--a state of mind that as an author I am most intimate with--that I headed into the last few sessions of the day at the London Author Fair. As it turned out, there was at least one Eureka moment for me here. Organised by authoright.com, a company actually run by an Indie Author for all authors, here are the ten trends I came away with:
1. Books will get shorter as people will have less time on reading
This was a comment from literary agent @andrewlownie, which I agree with. We live far more fragmented lives thanks to technology: which in simplifying tasks, and freeing up time, has only meant we try to fit in much more into a day. So as a writer, I am very conscious of the expectation to live a life in 140 characters, and definitely have this back of my mind as I write.
Yet, as bestselling author, @adeleparks remarked: "the best things are those which you linger over." So if in that shorter, sweeter, novel I could find a way to hang those moments of introspection strategically onto the timeline, then yes, that would work very well indeed.
2. Will the number of writers mirror the number of readers in the future?
A concern voiced by several authors in the conference. Personally, I don't worry about this, too much. I do believe ultimately quality will over overshadow quantity. Write a bloody good book, market it well, and the readers will come.
3. In 2020 social will play an even bigger role on how books are read
Even as someone who is socially connected 24/7, I view this with apprehension. It means readers can now highlight text, make notes and share a link to the selected passage on social networks, from eBooks. Good, bad? Again, good if you write well. But overall, it feels very confusing: for the time lag between liking something you read and sharing to the world is minimal. Which does take adjusting to.
4. Is there a business model for the author in the digital world?
To quote @PollyCourtney, author of Golden Handcuffs : "...To do it well you have to invest time, effort and money." Even more so as an Indie author: for when you put your book out there, it gets judged on the same platform as a book from a mainstream publisher.
So it's got to have great content, be well edited, have a great cover, really everything you would expect as a reader from any book. As publishing journalist @Porter_Anderson added: "don't use your readers as the test base for your typos." So true! Yet how many of us Indies, can sustain and keep this investment going book after book?
No, I think the answer is to look at your books as just one component of building your platform. Get the book(s) out, and very quickly figure out related sources of income, be it through paid appearances at book clubs, blogging--uh! A daytime job helps too I wager: to take the pressure off and giving you the mind-space to actually write.
5. It's the book stupid!
Amongst all the social media and marketing jargon, don't lose sight of this. Said bestselling Indie author @bellaandre: "it's the book, the book, book. Focus on the book." It also means when you have a first success, capitalise on it. "If you can get a book out every six months do it" she adds.
6. The Indie Author Brand
"Think about your brand before you publish" advised @nookpress. Yes, you absolutely have to find your voice, be true to yourself, and figure out what you are saying before you put yourself out there. As @MattCainWriter, author of upcoming novel Shot Through the Heart said: "you need a really simple proposition for people to get you."
7. Naïve Confidence
Do you really believe it can happen? @adeleparks did! But then if you didn't you wouldn't have thought of going Indie in the first place right?
8. Do you know who your reader is?
I am still working it out, I confess. But it absolutely helps to flesh this out. Here's an important one from @Porter_Anderson: "themes in your books: use them to get to the readers. Don't just stick to the writerly community." If you identify your readers you can target your appearances amongst that community.
9. Please, don't turn into a buy my book machine
@PatrickRBrown of @goodreads commented: "never talk about buying your book!" Exactly. Best way to sell your book is not to sell directly, I have learnt. Come at it sideways. On social networks, talk about yourself: your interests, your passions, what drives YOU as a person. If they like what you say, chances are they will buy your book. Meanwhile, be sure to develop a thick skin. In the words of @MattCainWriter: "If you get knocked back don't take it personally."
10. Eyeball Heroin
Thanks to @anna_cn for this phrase. I liked it so much, I am going to borrow it.
Anna was referring to how once you start watching series on Netflix you just cannot stop. She wondered if authors need to write in a similar style to survive and be read in the future? Well my answer is, yes! This exactly what I am attempting with the Ruby Iyer series. Fast paced, short 800 word episodes each week, ending on a cliff hanger to keep them coming back for more.
PS: Just had to thank Blurb for the free coffee aka author fuel, throughout the day!
Follow Laxmi Hariharan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/laxmi