2020 Keynote Speaker
Meryl Halls, Managing Director, The Booksellers Association
Meryl Halls has been Managing Director of the Booksellers Association since April 2018, and has spent her career promoting and supporting booksellers. Her career at the Booksellers Association began with managing events and conferences, and later she became Head of Membership Services, responsible for establishing programmes and campaigns, including the Independent Booksellers Forum, Independent Bookshop Week, the Books Are My Bag campaign, the Children’s and Christian Bookselling Groups, Irish and Scottish initiatives and other BA events. She is Vice Chair of the Independent Retailers Confederation, Policy Board Member of the British Retail Consortium, Executive Committee member of the European & International Booksellers Federation and a Trustee of World Book Day.
Welcome and Introduction
Jeremy Thompson, Managing Director, Troubador Publishing Ltd/The Book Guild Ltd
Jeremy Thompson is the founder and Managing Director of Troubador Publishing Ltd and has over 30 years’ experience in commercial and self-publishing. He founded the Matador self-publishing imprint in 1999, making it the UK’s most widely recommended author services provider, and launched the Self-Publishing Conference in 2013. In 2015 he acquired The Book Guild Ltd as a Troubador subsidiary company. Jeremy regularly speaks at conferences on self-publishing, including the London Book Fair, Self-Publishing Conference, Winchester Writers’ Conference and the Westminster Media Forum.
2020 Session Timetable
In a packed day, delegates can choose from a range of sessions to suit their own knowledge requirements. Here is the preliminary session timetable (subject to change).
- 8.45-9.30am Registration and coffee
- 9.30-9.45am Welcome and Introduction
- 9.45-10.45am Session 1: Matador ‘Masterclasses’
- 10.45–11.00am Morning coffee
- 11.00-11.45am Keynote presentation
- 11.45-12.45pm Session 2
- 12.45-13.45pm Lunch
- 13.45-14.30pm Industry Panel: Choosing the right self-publishing company
- 14.30-15.30pm Session 3
- 15.30-15.45pm Afternoon Tea and Cake
- 15.45-16.00pm Author Mentoring
- 16.00-17.00 Author Panel: Publishing perspectives?
- 17.00-18.00pm Drinks reception
Session 1: 9.45–10.45am – Matador Masterclasses
Going digital: ebooks and audiobook masterclass
Megan Lockwood-Jones and Andrea Johnson, Matador
Downloadable digital editions have been a fast-growing sector of the books market, with ebooks having shaken up the market in recent years. Now audiobooks are the fastest growing sector of the books market, with digital downloads rapidly increasing with the increase in home devices such as Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Home Pod. This session looks at the importance of digitally downloaded books in ebook and audiobook formats, and how Matador can help issue books in both formats.
Staying social: social media masterclass
Alexa Davies and Sophie Morgan, Matador
The use of social media in all its forms has become an essential part of any author’s marketing arsenal. With Twitter and Facebook being the two most important platforms, others such as Instagram are fast catching up in popularity. But what is the best way of using each such platform, and how do they differ in what results they can offer authors? This session looks at social media from an author’s perspective, and offers insights on how best to use the various platforms.
Cover design masterclass
Chelsea Taylor, Rosie Lowe, Jack Wedgebury, Matador; Andy Vosper, TJ International
Cover design is so often wrong on self-published books, with authors making the same mistakes over and over. So how can you get your book cover looking like something from a mainstream commercial publisher, so that it stands as good a chance as possible of selling? In this session, Matador’s cover designers look at the common pitfalls made by self-publishers with their covers, and how to approach cover design like a pro; and we look at cover design from a printer’s perspective, with all the fantastic opportunities that technology now offers to enhance covers.
Typesetting/page layout masterclass
Joe Shillito and Josh Howey, Matador
With an understandable emphasis placed by authors on their cover design, the inside of many self-published books can often be overlooked. Typesetting is far more than a simple formatting of text to fit a page; it is an integral part of a book’s overall design, contributing not only to how well a book has been produced, but also to the reader’s overall experience of the volume. This session looks at text design and how it can raise the game for any self-publishing author.
Session 2: 11.45–12.45pm
Storytelling doesn't finish with 'The End'
Sarah Taylor, Berkeley Communications
Every story follows an arc and a formula, each has tension and drama. Every story has someone we can relate to… and so should your marketing and publicity. Nowadays, ‘local author writes book’ won’t cut the mustard – your press release, interview pitch and other marketing content must be memorable, and bring the story of you and your book alive. In short, storytelling doesn’t finish once you’ve typed ‘The End’. This session will delve down into the storytelling aspects of marketing and publicity, and how you can leverage its power in your marketing efforts.
Avoiding anachronism: historical novel research
Aidan Morrissey, HNS Conference Organiser
A good historical novel is the result of extensive research so as to be as accurate to the storyline’s period as possible. In this session, novelist Aidan Morrissey looks at some of the research he undertook before writing his novel, and at the vexatious question of anachronisms. For some, these are the bane of historical fiction; for others, they are the lifeblood of literary and prize-winning authors.
The importance of editing
Cressida Downing, The Book Analyst
Editing can take many forms, from line editing to structural editing, copy editing to developmental editing. This often baffling variety of editing can be a minefield for self-publishing authors unfamiliar with the intricacies of the publishing world. This session takes the mystery out of editing, while placing great emphasis on the fact that no self-publishing author should be contemplating publication unless and until they have had their work edited.
Dull as data... but vital to book sales
Clive Herbert, Nielsen Book
Selling books is all about making the cover attractive, getting the media interested, no? Well, no. Selling books is about data, that often technical stuff that accompanies the more glamorous aspects of publishing a book. Data can include reviews, an author biography and photo, a contents list, the price, page extent, a detailed synopsis and extract… and the more data (and the more accurate it is), the better the sales are likely to be. This session looks at the importance of data to self-publishing authors, and advises that it should be ignored at your peril.
Before, During After: How to boost the buzz around your books
Stuart Evers, NetGalley
Getting your book noticed is difficult; so this session is designed to help you find strategies and tactics for improving the reach of your titles. Assistant Director of NetGalley UK, Stuart Evers, will show the power of pre-publication reviews, the value of visibility, and how to stand out from the crowd.
Industry Panel: 13.45–14.30pm
Saints and sharks: avoiding the self-publishing charlatans
John Sailing, The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain
Martin Reed, The Society of Authors
Alysoun Owen, Writers & Artists Yearbook
With the explosion in recent years in authors opting to self-publish, the number of suppliers – from excellent to adequate, ‘dodgy’ to simply out to exploit – has also burgeoned. The options and offers open to authors can be bewildering, and in a wholly unregulated market, authors far too often fall foul of the scammers.
This panel, lead by representatives of the UK’s most respected advocates for authors – the Society of Authors, the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain and the Writers & Artists Yearbook – looks at how to tell the difference between the saints and the sharks and avoid those tales of woe at the hands of the self-publishing charlatans.
Session 3: 14.30–15.30pm
Whats hot, what's not: Trends in book publishing
Kate Nash, Literary Agent
Like most things, there are trends in book publishing. When Harry Potter became a success there was a flurry of ‘wizard’ books; vampires ruled the roost for a few years, and recently it has been the turn of anything ‘plant-based’ to take pride of place on the shelves. Literary agent Kate Nash needs to know what publishing companies are looking for, so staying on trend can be vital. For self-publishers too, catching the wave of a hot subject can bring success beyond that expected. This session looks at what genres are on the rise and fall in the publishing world.
The script, the script and the script: Writing for TV and radio
Paul Mendelson, author and screenwriter
Alfred Hitchcock said that to make a great film you need three things: the script, the script and the script. The same is equally true in TV and radio. Every writer’s journey is different and even after 45 years of writing for a living, Paul A Mendelson wouldn’t presume to teach you how to crack it. But perhaps, in a very personal talk, he can help you to find your voice and make your own opportunities. And as he’s a BAFTA-nominated comedy writer, he’s hoping he can also make you smile. (He also loves questions!)
Cathy Grindrod, author and mentor
Everyone has a fascinating story to tell, for which you already have all the material you need. But what exactly is memoir, how do you get started, and how do you turn your personal experience into engaging and gripping narrative? What are the joys and difficulties you might encounter in the process, both creatively and psychologically? Using her own experience of writing a memoir and her work facilitating others to write their stories Cathy will talk about the things she has learned from her own writing process and from other memoir writers she has supported. This will be a talk which includes some brief practical writing prompts.
Routes to review
Stephanie Carr, Matador; Philippa Iliffe, The Book Guild
Getting reviews of your work is one major factor in why so many authors decide to publish. So what avenues are open to you to ensure that you get those all-important reviews? National newspapers, the regional press, retailers’ reviews, readers’ reviews, bloggers, social media… all have their own pros and cons. And what about paid-for reviews? How far should you go to get a review? And what happens if you don’t like what someone then says? This session looks at the many avenues open to self-publishing authors to obtain genuine reviews for both books and ebooks, and at the benefits and pitfalls of each option.
15.45pm – Author mentoring with Dream Author
Most writers and aspiring writers have dreams in relation to their writing — things they want to achieve; things that would make them feel proud if they managed to make them a reality. That’s great, right? Well, it would be…if only our writing dreams made us happy. For so many, our dreams are not a source of happiness. Instead they cause us stress, guilt, frustration and even shame.
The Dream Author coaching programme was launched by bestselling author Sophie Hannah to teach anyone who is passionate about writing how to change the way they build, think about and pursue their writing dreams, in order to become their own most powerful ally and advocate for the rest of their writing life. This session provides a brief introduction to Dream Author by its founder.
16.00pm – Author Panel: Publishing perspectives
This panel session looks at the different routes to publishing, the pros and cons of each, and the expectations that authors often have from each. Featuring both mainstream and self-published authors, the session will conclude with a Q&A.
Sophie Hannah is a Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling writer of crime fiction, published in 49 languages and 51 countries. Her books have sold millions of copies worldwide. In 2014, with the blessing of Agatha Christie’s family and estate, Sophie published a new Poirot novel, The Monogram Murders, which was a bestseller in more than 15 countries. She has since published two more nationally and internationally bestselling Poirot novels, Closed Casket and The Mystery of Three Quarters.
In 2013, Sophie’s novel The Carrier won the Crime Thriller of the Year Award at the Specsavers National Book Awards. She has also published two short story collections and five collections of poetry – the fifth of which, Pessimism for Beginners, was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Award. Her poetry is studied at GCSE, A Level and degree level across the UK. Most recently, she has published a self-help book called How to Hold a Grudge: From Resentment to Contentment – The Power of Grudges to Transform Your Life and launched the How To Hold a Grudge Podcast.
Bali Rai has written over forty novels about teenagers and children. Born in Leicester, his writing is inspired by his working-class, multicultural background. A leading voice in UK teen fiction, Bali is a passionate advocate of libraries, reading for pleasure and promoting literacy. He has nearly 20 years of experience in working with young people across the UK and further afield and is extremely popular with schools. He has been nominated for and won numerous awards since 2001.
Bali has worked closely with The Reading Agency, Booktrust, The National Literacy Trust, Empathy Lab UK and many other organisations, and was awarded an honorary doctorate by De Montfort University in 2014. He also featured on BBC1’s Rebel Writers show and is an ambassador/patron for several high-profile literacy and arts projects. He is a Costa Book Award judge for 2019 and is currently working on two new titles. His latest book is Now or Never – A Dunkirk Story.
Paul A Mendelson
Paul A Mendelson is a BAFTA-nominated screenwriter, playwright and author. An ex-lawyer and adman, he created and wrote the long-running comedy series May to December, So Haunt Me and My Hero for BBC, created Neighbors From Hell for DreamWorks Animation and the acclaimed Martin Clunes drama Losing It. He has written several original plays and dramatisations for BBC Radio 4. Paul’s first novel, In the Matter of Isabel (‘a wonderfully funny comic novel’ The Independent) and his movie script were bought by Hollywood within a week of publication. He has since written two more novels, a collection of shorter fiction and two bizarre children’s books Losing Arthur and The Funnies, all published with The Book Guild.
Steve Moore self-published his first book The Undoing of Polly Button in August 2019 to critical acclaim and significant sales across the UK and from as far afield as North America, South Africa and Australasia. The product of five years research and writing, the book tells the story of the tragic life and bloody murder of Mary Green (aka Polly Button) by John Danks in Nuneaton in 1832. A Chartered Environmental Health Practitioner by profession, Steve’s self-publishing journey has been one of individual organisation, discovery, tenacity, creativity and tremendous personal fulfilment.