Sunday, April 21, 2013

London Book Fair 2013 - The Authors' Steal

Books are THIS big business. It's exhausting looking at it...
View from the International Rights Centre

Tiring yes, but a lot of fun. The most exciting moment for me was on the first day at my "author/agent speed dating" 15 minute LitFactor pitch. This had to be pre-booked in a frenzied Ticketmaster-Like Sell-Out-Gig finger on the button at the allotted opening hour.
It went, as they say, well. So well that I can now only have my extreme caution hat on. As this blog will testify, so much in publishing at every single stage can end in tears. This was brought home once more by the appointment that I and one of my Blackbird authors had with an established Japanese publisher who wanted to buy the translation rights to her book. The emails were full of love for said book and with promise of a contract being forwarded before our meeting at the Fair, arranged for noon on the Tuesday. I'm not an international rights agent of course but we had put plans in place for an expert agent to take it to the next stage. The cancellation email came 3 days before the Fair. That is publishing: a deal's not a deal until it's a deal. 

Great disappointment, and sadness for my author who'd already bought her ticket. But it did mean I had great company; together we learnt a lot, and we know there is everything to play for in the future, especially for her book in the Far East.

To up the current angst, I know the LitFactor agent is reading my novel this weekend because she emailed me on Friday afternoon to tell me. She totally knew all about the new, upcoming Boomer Lit genre; was excited to hear about the follow-on novel.... so, well. An interesting snippet that might be of use to other authors - when the novel was sent out by the original agent, it was sent to both literary and commercial editors. She told me that there is a real interest now in literary/commercial crossover novels... which raised my eyebrows in a happy way for a moment. Anyway it's wait and see time.  

There are 250 events and seminars to choose from, all covered by the 3-day entry ticket. 

SALT publishing's seminal seminar on social media on a budget,
sep post coming soon

Bestselling Indie Superstar C J Lyons at the Alliance Of Independent Authors' launch for
  Choosing A Self-Publishing Service 

  Granta's Best of Young British Britain's 20 brightest young writers under 40, event with John Freeman, A L Kennedy and Adam Thirlwell. 
Thirlwell, obv very well-known but new to me, was great. Loved his description of writing as "silently speaking to somebody who isn't there". He was almost apologetic at how well his career had gone right from the kick-off ("How's your love life then?" asked Freeman. "I got married last year.") & A L Kennedy was engaging & funny until, completely oblivious to what had been going on around her in the Author's Lounge, she dismissed self-publishing out of hand

Author As Entrepreneur hosted by Authoright
More ironic for Orna Ross' and Polly Courtney's inspiring Author As Entrepreneur talk that had featured on the same stage immediately before.  The joke that's been doing the rounds for a while that authors are as welcome at the LBF as cows in a slaughterhouse is well and truly dead. The buzz really was all about authors, and especially self-publishing, this year. If that sounds strange, it's only in the past few years that the Fair has been opening up. It always felt like, and was, a No Go Zone for writers where publishers and agents did their stuff. 
Will Self action as we R&R at our favourite base camp once
 more: the PENN Literary Cafe
This year even the hard salesmen of previous years had gone from the Author Lounge and instead it was curated by good guys Authoright. Sponsorship came from Amazon KDP, Kobo & Matador, with huge input from The Alliance Of Independent Authors, who had not only arranged for a large entry discount for their members, but open bar parties where Amazon rep Thom circulated asking authors what Amazon & Createspace could do better. Matt covers for Createspace I said, which has duly been noted and taken back to Seattle. 
Orna Ross of The Alliance Of Independent Authors at the book launch 

There was even a 2-hr slot for members to show off their wares.

Here are some snippets of seminar information authors might find useful. Scribbled down - apologies for note form.  

Reading Out Of The Box 
Is genre snobbery fading? With young adult science-fiction and fantasy authors winning prizes and accolades, paranormal romance and dystopia attracting huge sales, and graphic novels and illustrated books getting more respect in mainstream channels than ever before, author Matt Haig explores whether children’s publishing still needs the concept of genre. Joining Matt will be author Chris Priestly and Brenda Gardner of Piccadilly Press.
hosted by Booktrust Children's Books.

Sales after awards not always as fantastic as you'd hope...
Children's books, no genre in shops, done by age - apart from a few stand-out displays.
Lit fiction - character led
Genre fiction - plot led
Matt: All good fiction is character led. Plot is character. 
Genre fiction more mechanical.
Girls are more loyal to writers than boys.

The agents' hang-out at the top of the escalator 
How to sell books to film and television companies in a rapidly changing world

Join a panel of leading TV producers to discuss how they are overcoming the difficulties facing new developments in television today, and how this is impacting on the optioning of new dramas and literary adaptations. 
Impressive panel chaired by Julian Friedmann, co-owner of Blake Friedmann Literary Agency, with 3 development executives - from Michael Winterbottom's Revolution Films, Channel 4 Film & BBC Film.

Producers claim not a great deal of development money around.

Budget polarisation
 - Ludicrous high budget movies
-  Low budget movies

Don't pitch direct to broadcasters. Pitch to independent producers. If you go to a broadcaster first and then go to an independent producer you'll have to tell them you've been turned down by broadcaster and then there'll be no hope. 

What does one look for in a book? 
Great story. Great characters. 1st person internal can be a headache. SPACE in a book to have director's vision.

TV longer form series coming into its own. Longevity... TV having more filmic ambitions...

Q from audience. Protecting the information in work, the work, sent in to film companies?
If information is in several places, it's hard to protect. There are some tricks people use. Eg, a map company put in a few fictional tiny landmarks that aren't actually there. Then if anybody copied they could sue as there would be no secondary source. 

Writing a film pitch
Imagine a DVD of the movie and make a synopsis in the present tense.
NO he thoughts, she felts etc.
Tell your pitch letter with visual images.
First 10 pages incredibly important.
Starting point - think of films you love...
FIERCE competition between independent producers for good material.

If can link your pitch with a famous person all the better. A one line pitch example that got them wanting to know more instantly was Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy meets Blade Runner + famous person...

Who to pitch to?
Look at PACT website.
Go to Edinburgh film festival, tv festival
Not Cannes.
London Screenwriters Festival, October, London
Read Screen International for film, Broadcast for TV

Editorial coverage is absolute gold-dust ie a hot news item related to pitch that can be exploited with PR...

The Invitation Only Ivy box at the agents' centre

We headed for somewhere FAR more exclusive:
 The Troubadour Coffee House secret garden
& later still, unbeatable chips & friendliest hosts at
Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Earl's Court Road
To be continued soon... over at Author's Electric....

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