An author at LBF: The best and the Wurst

Someone made a brilliant suggestion today. Cathy Rentzenbrink, who hosted "How to Sell your Book" realised that, rather than four speakers addressing an overflowing audience and hoping that some of the information would be helpful, there would be a better way to do the event: it could be set up like speed dating. Each person would have three minutes to question a panel member, like so:

"Is this book cover any good do you think?"  

"Honestly," Matthew Bates the smiley buyer from WH Smiths could say, That’s not something I could get into Smiths in 100 years."

"Er, thank you"  The author experimenting with cover design could reply.

Ding! Next person.

It would be brutal. The author would have to think very carefully about what they wanted to ask. If one of the panel was an agent, they could even do an elevator pitch. So much better and more exciting than sitting in an audience listening to a talk where most of the information isn’t relevant to most of the people, most of the time.

The next event was billed as "Non-Fiction". While the audience waited I explained the brilliance of the speed dating-style event idea to a distinguished looking gentleman standing at the back. I then added, "Who are you anyway?" And looked at his name label.

"I’m the Austrian ambassador," he replied.

"What? Why?"

"I’m here for the next event."

"You have a non fiction book you want to get published?"

It was becoming rather surreal.

Then in walked Conchita Wurst and her PR team. Conchita, as I’m sure you’ll remember, is the glamorous drag queen also known as Tom Neuwirth, who, with her long hair and beard, offended and delighted whole countries by winning the Eurovision Song Contest for Austria in 2014. Sadly she wasn’t going to sing for us (I’m sure that would have been fabulous) instead she was here to talk about her upcoming book. 

"They approached me…" she said very elegantly, "They asked, ‘Would you like to tell your story?’ And I said, ‘No, I’m only 26.' But they kept asking and so eventually I said OK."

Here was a subject the authors at Author Central were surprised to be hearing about. What to do when approached repeatedly by publisher for a celebrity biography - say, "No I couldn’t possibly - Oh alright then."

Really Conchita was lovely but, not having read the brochure, many seemed perplexed at her arrival. Except the Austrian ambassador who was the only person, as far as I could make out, who had been expecting her.

But then I went to an event with stars of a different kind. For me, they weren't just the stars of the day, but the stars of the entire London Book Festival – The BookTubers. Get your pens – you are going to need to take notes.

They are not bloggers, they are not vloggers, they are not just YouTubers – they are BookTubers. They are quick, (so quick they speak at twice the speed of everyone else at LBF – I love them). The panel was made up of four beautiful, clever women (Sanne Vliegenthart, also digital and social media manager at Hot Key Books, Rosianna Halse Rojas, also executive to John Green, We Love This Book's Anna James and Pan Macmillan's digital communications manager Naomi Bacon) and they are going to own even more of the world than they do already. If you do one thing this week as a result of reading this little five day blog… find out who they are and what they do. 

When Dr Seuss wrote: "You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself any direction you choose," he wrote it about these four women. He just didn’t realise it at the time. 

So next year, London Book Fair, I suggest speed meetings for authors, with these four on the panel, Conchita can be invited back to sing. That would be one fabulous event. And afterwards I’ll take tea with the Austrian ambassador.



Isabel Losada is an author and artistic director of the Battersea Literature Festival. She tweets at @IsabelLosada