This week was the grand opening of Derby’s debut Book Festival. This was the first year that the city has put on the festival and they definitely pulled out all the stops. The week was packed full of exciting events, from writing workshops to performance poetry. Special guests included Rufus Hound and Michael Morpurgo, author of War Horse.
I attended two of these events. The first one was ‘A Conversation With David Nicholls’. David Nicholls is the author of the bestselling novel, ‘One Day’, and also the screenwriter of many Hollywood films including ‘Great Expectations’ and the recent ‘Far From The Madding Crowd’. David Nicholls is a very funny, down-to-earth man. He told us all about how he came up with Douglas, the main character of his new novel, Us, and how one particular incident in the book was inspired by a real life event involving an angry biker gang in Amsterdam.
The other event was on publishing – both the life of a publisher and how to get published. As someone who one day dreams of being published, the information I learned from this event was invaluable. The speakers – Julia Murday, a publicist at Penguin; Karen Ball, a publisher of children’s books; and Diane Banks, a literary agent – were fantastic. They explained what they look for in an author, and also gave advice on how to self-market your books. For example, we were told that as long as you’re careful with what you put out there, being active on social media is a huge help to your career, as it enables you to prove that your have contacts and potential book-buyers. They also stated that it’s incredibly important to keep an eye on the ever-moving trends, so if the time for bestselling sci-fi novels has passed, hold onto that manuscript and wait for the trend to come back round. Publishers are much more likely to choose your book if it fits in with the bestsellers at the time.
I highly recommend visiting a book fair to those of you who enjoy writing and reading. There are so many opportunities out there to meet and network with other people who one day might just be the contact you need to take a leap into your career, as well as all of the events that are held to teach you everything you need to know about the industry. There are over 350 book festivals in the UK, and the number keeps growing as they become increasingly popular. This was my first time attending one, but I know it will not be my last. I can’t wait for next year’s!