Sunday, 30 March 2014

Paris Book Fair

Last weekend I went along to the Paris Book Fair. I thought it might be somewhat of an education for me, as I'm self-publishing a book on moving to France. I imagined I might learn something. This was a delusion. I also thought it might be a good opportunity to network, make some contacts, hand out some business cards I'd made specifically for my book, for this fair. Wrong again.

Having read as much as I could on the event website, in English and in French, I had erroneously assumed it might be a bit more international than it is. It's strictly for francophones, French authors and French publishing houses. Almost no one spoke English. Various regions of France were represented, as were French overseas territories, and a few other countries such as the guest country for this year, Argentina. The only international publishing flavour present was a small exhibition area by Amazon - a smart move on their part. Their display space concentrated on their print-on-demand division CreateSpace and their ebook division Kindle Direct Publishing, plus e-reader devices such as the Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Fire HD tablet.

Publishing must be booming for Amazon, as for 98% of writers, finding an agent and publisher is an impossibility now. Agents and publishers are mostly only interested in what they consider a sure-fire hit by a known writer or celebrity, or something that's the latest fad. Good writing has nothing to do with it; much as good screenplays and films have nothing to do with Hollywood backing. Amazon is filling the market void, enabling indie writers, like myself, to avoid the rip-off publishers known as vanity publishers.

With CreateSpace I can publish my book and take a much higher percentage of royalties while retaining all my rights to my own material. I have to do all my own marketing but that would still be mostly the case if I had a traditional publisher doing the rest for me.

I've paid to have my manuscript professionally edited. I've paid to have my book cover professionally designed so that I have total control over how things look. It's not cheap, but it's cheaper than vanity publishers, without all the disadvantages of those. Everything else I must do myself, such as formatting interior design, uploading, tax issues etc. It's a learning curve where I take all the risks and most of the benefits, IF I can sell copies.

It's the same with KDP. I have total control over my ebook version. In order to reach readers using different e-readers not compatible with Kindle, I'll also publish on Smashwords. Each option gives me international coverage.
 So, apart from a couple of tips gleaned from a speaker at the Amazon stand, I learnt nothing. I spoke to one other print-on-demand business but he was small, gave tiny royalities, locked in rights for two years and had limited knowledge of Amazon's business. I suggested he bone up on it, as he'd have a hard time competing. I've little time for businesses that don't see the need to understand their competitors.

It was also a bit of a surprise seeing the obsessed fans of certain authors queuing forever to get a signed copy. These authors' names meant nothing to me because most were strictly French. Most of the congestion in the exhibition was due to these book groupies.

I don't have the means to visit the London Book Fair. Maybe if I can have modest success with my book Follow My Heart it might be worth me doing that next year.


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