Frankfurter Buchmesse 2014 - Fotoart by Michael von Hassel

Frankfurt Book Fair/Michael von Hassel (Verlag te Neues)

This year, I attended FBF14 wearing two hats – author and journalist. (Look out for my articles in December’s Words with JAM on Marketing for Authors and Global Trends in Self-Publishing.) Several things surprised me: the sheer scale of the fair, the pace & passion of the attendees, and the number of people who looked like Jeff Bridges.

The Dude Abides, mostly round the sausage stall.

But the biggest eyebrow raiser was what an enormous disappointment some authors found the experience. I spoke to several people who were lost, confused, angry and frustrated by what they saw as a waste of time. With one exception (bad manners), this was due to insufficient preparation.

So here are five tips to maximise your book fair experience as an author.

Tip 1 – Do Your Research

Hall 8.0, Frankfurt Book Fair

Hall 8.0, Frankfurt Book Fair

A writer and artist spent his one day in Frankfurt wandering around the religious, spiritual and tourism non-fiction section when he’d come with the specific purpose of learning how to crowd-fund his comics. Comics were on the level above, the relevant Ignite! event took place in another hall and by the time he found the crowd-funding company’s booth, they’d already packed up and gone home.

Not only are the halls and sections specific to languages/genres/ages/formats, they are huge. Programmes of events for particular interests might be taking place over various venues. Find out what’s happening where and make an itinerary for yourself.

Tip 2 – Meet the Right People

A group of authors had flown from New Zealand and Japan to sell their foreign language rights. They visited all the publisher booths to try and interest someone in buying, but everyone they met was selling.

Deals for foreign rights are rarely made at publisher booths but happen on the literary agents’ floor or in private meetings. Appointments with agents and publishers need to be made months in advance and thoroughly prepared to maximise the brief opportunity.

Tip 3 – Understand the Scale

In the ladies’, I met a tearful children’s author and an illustrator applying plasters to her feet. They’d organised several appointments back-to-back to promote their picture book, but unfortunately, they were 15 minutes walk apart. Time is so precious, people won’t wait if you’re quarter of an hour late for a 30-minute meeting.

Be realistic about how much you can achieve. This is the biggest event in the professional publishing calendar. For five days, the entire industry is present and working stupid hours to get the most out of it. It stretches over a vast area – think Heathrow Airport, not Earl’s Court – and shuttle buses run constantly to ferry people around. Wear comfy shoes.

Tip 4 – Use Your Moment

Triskele Books postcards

Triskele Books postcards in book-shaped holder

A non-fiction author published a year ago and now seeks assistance with reviews, marketing and connections. He joined a seminar group to ask advice. He had zero promo material, wrote his email on a torn out page of the catalogue and when asked what the book was about, rambled vaguely about a family history in hosiery. (Might not have been hosiery, but something equally forgettable.)

Networking is an essential aspect of the fair. Be memorable, professional and contactable. Polish your elevator pitch, have postcards, bookmarks and business cards to hand (not at the bottom of a copious handbag). If you have more than one book, or you’re a group of writers working together, produce an author catalogue.

Tip 5 – Be Respectful

At a book launch, one of the invited was also a fiction writer. She talked to everyone about her own book, distributed how-to-buy information and even offered to sign copies there and then if people wanted to pay cash. Piggybacking on another author’s event? Needless to say, blacklisted by hosts and guests alike.

Each event or programme is sponsored by an organisation. They have leaflets and promo material on display because they paid for that space. Adding yours to the table or shelf is extremely rude. (I asked permission to display The Indie Author Fair catalogues at the Publishing Perspectives International Self-Publishing Programme and they were happy to do so as it was relevant.)


In short, at a publishing fair for pros, behave like one. Know why you’re there and what you want to achieve. Be prepared and be practical. Respect other people. Listen more than talk and when you do speak, make it count. Follow up your contacts and share what you’ve learned.

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2014, Frankfurt Book Fair 2014

Frankfurt Book Fair 2014, Marc Jacquemin

Five Things I Did Wrong

  • Neglected to check data roaming on smartphone. No email.
  • Packed modest amount of promo material. Ran out.
  • Only brought map of fair, not Frankfurt. Got lost.
  • Assumed driver who pulled up only wanted directions. He didn’t.
  • Ate chips. Enough said.


Don’t miss Part II – scoot on over to Vine Leaves Literary Journal and work that voice.

Put theory into practice and you’ll feel better than Dolly Parton.

The Craft of Voice – Part II

“In this second section, we’re going deeper into your voice, as the writer. Authorial individual style, plus exploiting personal strengths. The writer as conductor of the whole orchestra.”

Image by Rob van Hilten CC BY


Image by Rob van Hilten CC BY NC SA



By JJ Marsh



Photo by AG Anderson

Farmers’ Market – Photo by AG Anderson – Creative Commons



Peixeira – By lilivanili

Some of my favourite places in the world are markets.

I can’t spend a weekend in London without a visit to Borough, with the never-tried-before cheeses, fresh produce which actually tastes fresh and fast-food stalls selling everything but chips.

In Porto, I spent many Saturday mornings wandering the aisles of Bolhão, learning from the peixeiras, mainly piquant recipes and spicier curses.


Paris 2013

Last year’s trip to Paris with writer friends? Yes, of course Shakespeare and Co, Notre Dame, La Seine and… a farmers’ market.

Now in Zürich, I often treat myself to the Viadukt, with British pies, Italian beers and the occasional Sunday morning writers’ salon.

Yet I will do anything to avoid a supermarket – a deadening, sterile experience with the mere illusion of choice.  My frustration is always exacerbated by the sign at the express checkout: Six Items or Less.

The reason I seek out farmers’ markets is because of the pride and passion in the craft. These people love what they do and will freely share their excitement. The baker explains his chocolate chip cookie secret. The olive vendor demonstrates how she makes the best tapenade. Even as a vegetarian, I was held rapt by the Slow Food sausage man’s spiel. So many cheeses to sample…

There are artisans – people who take pains over their creations and share their love.

The same way I like to buy my food, I like to buy my books. I’m curious as to the drive, the impulse, the story behind the story. That’s why Triskele Books and the Alliance of Independent Authors are co-hosting the inaugural Indie Author Fair at Chorleywood LitFest.

Many of independent publishing’s brightest lights will be reading, performing, signing and meeting readers. Not to mention offering themselves as a Human Library, full of wise, exciting, beautifully presented and surprising tomes.

There’ll be readings for adults, storytime for smalls, signed copies and fascinating people from every aspect of publishing’s new wave. Passion for the page.

Chorleywood is on the Metropolitan Tube line, with a traditional English common and a charming pub.

Come on down. I’ll save you a cookie.

IAF flyer


Image by Kevin Dooley

Images by AG Anderson and lilivanili





Image by Kevin Dooley

Today I’m the guest of The Vine Leaves Literary Journal.

Talking about The Craft of Voice – theory and practical exercises designed to help you discover yours.

Part two coming next month.  Check it out.



Image by Kevin Dooley


whisper image ccHow to get sound onto paper.

An issue I’ve wrestled with for some time, especially when it comes to characters’ voices.

Several recent books irritated me enormously with an excess of signposts as to speech style. Every utterance written semi-phonetically was boring and hard work. An excess of ‘local colour’ turned character into caricature before the story even began. Every single person in a broad cast using the same vocabulary but with different adverbs equalled monotony.

The reason the books above failed is for exactly the same reason writers should show, not tell.

Leave space for the reader’s imagination. Inference is a powerful and natural phenomenon.

Do not tell. Do not shout. Whisper and let us follow the clues. We may end up in different places. That is our prerogative.

The complexity of rendering voices, accents, speech impediments or verbal tics on paper while not getting on the reader’s wick is both tricky and simple. I often write characters who speak other languages than English. How close to native speaker should they sound?  Would adding mistakes in English add authenticity or distract? A key character has a peculiarity of expression – should I explain or risk incomprehension?

Differentiation of voices is one of my basics – and a keystone of character development . So I did a little research on how other writers put sounds to paper with enough quiet space for the reader’s interpretation.


Monique Roffey’s memorable book The White Woman on the Green Bicycle, immerses the reader in the spoken sounds of Trinidad from the outset.

‘Oh Gyaaaad,’ Sabine complained loudly. ‘The heat! Jennifer, I cyan take it.’ She lifted up her voluminous house dress and fanned it up to her face, exposing her pink cotton knickers.

Phhhhhut!’ She made a loud hissing sound, fanning herself. ‘C’est un fourneau.’

Jennifer shook her head. ‘Take cyare Mr Harwood ent come in and ketch a fright.’

Why does this work? Roffey hints at the musicality of Trinidadian speech, nails the key features and allows the reader to do the rest.


Speech impediment

Christos Tsiolkas’s Barracuda. In the latter part of the book, the MC, Dan, meets a relative who has problems speaking. The first few exchanges are painful and awkward and not easy to read.

 ‘Ya ya. She – she is. Is. Dha-dha-dha-dha-ng.’ His words were a blur of hard consonants and slithering sibilants that made no sense to Dan.

‘Sorry mate, I didn’t get that.’

Dennis angrily wiped spit from the sides of his mouth. He looked flushed, embarrassed, as though he was furious at Dan. ‘I-I wi-wish sh-sh-she wouwad. Wad. Wad. Wad dj dj djusshtd die.’

Dan grows attuned to the way Dennis speaks and Tsiolkas drops the literal rendering in a couple of pages. It works perfectly. For Dan and for the reader, the difficulty fades away as the person emerges.


Verbal tics

Quirks of expression can become iconic, when done with real skill. The gnomic syntax of Yoda. The fluidity of thought of Joyce’s Molly Bloom to Eimear McBride’s narrator in A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing. Each of the creatures in The Wind in the Willows or Winnie the Pooh. Jane Austen, in Pride and Prejudice, drew five provincial country spinsters with extraordinary distinction. When it comes to depicting detail on an epic canvas, read Charles Dickens.

Finally, and I may have said this before, but Dylan Thomas is rarely bettered for character through idiolect than in Under Milk Wood.


Know Your Character’s Voice

Many authors answers character questions – what paper does he read? If she was a cocktail… that sort of thing.

Take the time to craft your characters’ speech. Know who would say sports car and who’d say Maserati. Decide who swears, what slang each person uses, the imagery they use and their cultural references in speech. Know what they sound like and why.

Write it all down and use about five percent of that information.

Respect your readers’ intelligence. Spell nothing out. Hint and suggest, but never tell the reader how to read.

Show, not tell.

Whisper, don’t shout.


Image by Timothy BrownCC-BY_icon.svg




A writer and journalist born in Trinidad and raised in Essex, Jonathan did an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, and receiving the Malcolm Bradbury Bursary. Followed by a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing, which comprised Randall, or The Painted Grape, and a critical essay, Beyond Ekphrasis: The Role and Function of Artworks in the Novels of Don DeLillo. He currently teaches undergraduate modules on Creative Writing and The Writing of Journalism, and is a regular columnist for The Independent and the Times Literary Supplement. Jonathan’s debut novel, Randall, or The Painted Grape, was published on 19 June 2014 by Galley Beggar Press.


Who or what had the biggest impact on your creative life?

Hard question! Parents? School? A particular author? A particular book? I don’t think I can pinpoint one person or thing that has influenced me more than anything else. Different things have had different impacts at different times. In terms of this novel, Randall, I suppose the Creative Writing degrees I did at UEA in Norwich, where I wrote it, had a huge influence. The people there, the sense of having a goal, the feeling of being part of a community all pushed me to make it the book it is.

Augusto Boal described internal oppressors as The Cop in the Head. How do you silence the reviewer to leave the writer in peace?

Oh boy, that cop. They’re useful, of course, but you need to keep them at bay for huge stretches of your writing time. I use two things that I know other writers hate: music, and alcohol. A glass of wine, or two, when writing late at night, banishes the usual inhibitions – that any particular set of words you happen to get down on screen look useless, the moment you see them – and lets me get the scene done. Not all the time, and not during the day, but it can give you that extra burst of energy you need at the end of a tiring day, and make the process of first-drafting more fun that is often otherwise is.

Music I use during the day when I’m writing. Particular types of music, particular albums – and usually one album on repeat, so that it sinks into my unconscious, and I can listen without hearing. I love the rhythm of it, it helps the rhythm of the writing – frees the Dancer in the Head, that the Cop in the Head wants to shut down. Just nodding along to something, sat in my chair, helps me get out of myself, and into that imaginative space where the novel is taking place. (Thinking about it, walking is a great help to writing, and the rhythm of music is perhaps the closest you can get to that while sat in your chair.)

Do you have tropes, phrases or words that you most overuse?

Ask my editors! I think Sam and Elly at Galley Beggars pointed out a preponderance of my characters to “sit themselves” in chairs, rather than just sit, and I know I’m always having them look at each other, and smile. Just stupid behavioural descriptors like that.

Short stories or novels – where do you feel most freedom?

Novels, I suppose. Stories, which I don’t write that many, are usually built around one idea, one moment, one trick I want to try to pull off, and so the writing of them is usually targeted at that goal. They’re something I want to try, or get out of my system. Novels are more explorative. I don’t know what’s going to happen, or I’m always keen to find a way to subvert or derail what I do think is going to happen.

What makes you laugh?

Happy people. Stupid people. Smart people. Clumsy people. Puns, screwball back-and-forth, intellectual slapstick. So many different kinds of laughter. Laughter is a cultural manifestation. I’m not sure I want to think too hard about what I laugh at.

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the state of British literature?

Hum. Well, it keeps going, doesn’t it? There are loads of great writers out there, and they’re getting published, in some form or other, so to that extent I’m optimistic. What I’m pessimistic about is the ability of British publishing, and of publishing in general, to serve British literature. I don’t like reading stuff digitally, and I have all sorts of sentimental attachment to books. Like most people, if I don’t have a book to hand, I’d rather be browsing Twitter or reading some online journalism than reading a book on a tablet or phone. Holding a book-as-object in your hand makes reading a whole-body thing. I just don’t see people reading books on buses and trains like they used to, and I don’t really blame them. Nobody’s yet written the story I’d prefer to read onscreen than on the page, and the culture seems to be conspiring against the page, so that makes me sad.

Where do you write? What’s on your desk and why?

At my desk. On it: monitor, keyboard, dictionaries, thesaurus, useful books etc – I love looking stuff up when I’m writing, love building up a pile of mess that I can then clear away to nothing – also Post-it notes, water, coffee, a screwdriver, rubber bands, all sorts of crap. This is the desk that I work my day job at, too, so it’s far from the monkish ideal.

Confess a guilty reading pleasure.

Haven’t got one. You won’t find me reading a book that I’d feel guilty about reading. Either that means I don’t read crap, or it’s not crap if I’m reading it, right?

Is there a book you were supposed to love but didn’t? Or one you expected to hate and fell for?

I really thought I’d love Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers, or at least envy it. It was tackling the same art world that Randall is set in, and I’d heard great things about the zippy, muscular prose style. (I love Don DeLillo, and got the impression that was the kind of thing we were talking.) But I found it overwritten, in a very American way: forceful, but wilfully slapdash at the same time, like a cool kid who very much wants to look like they think they’re not being looked at while they groove away in the corner of the disco.

Your fascination with book design – where does that come from?

From beautiful books – and then from the beginnings of an understanding of how books are more than objects, they are a technology, and they exist to serve a market. Why do Penguin have NINE different editions of Frankenstein across their adult and children’s imprints? Why does Morrissey insist on being a Penguin Classic then have such a large font and wide spacing (roughly 25% fewer words per page than my Penguin Classic Moby Dick!). When a publisher reissues an author’s back catalogue in a new design, what are they trying to do? Books are texts wrapped in their own advertisements. I love what they look like, and what they tell us about ourselves as readers.

What are the benefits of publishing with a small press like Galley Beggar?

Attention and focus. Immediacy of response. Delicious home-cooked food. Being able to look your editor in the eye without feeling they have a great machine behind them that will skew their reply.

Would you share what you’re working on next?

I have a novel and a YA novel, both in rough first draft, and I’m toying with which to run. Probably the novel: it’s about the pop music industry, in the way that Randall is about the art world – as with the book design thing, I’m fascinated by the way technology has driven the art form (pop/rock music) that I grew up thinking was somehow naturally, instinctively, authentically creative.

Money’s no object – which artwork would you buy?

A big 17th Century oil painting, something by Poussin or Claude. Something as far removed from any piece of art I’d actually be likely to every own. Something that would totally dominate any room it was hung in. A landscape or Classical scene, that I would lose myself in – those Mediterranean hills shading into the distance, the high, feathery trees, the people in their important configurations.

Read the Bookmuse review of Randall.


How I Avoided the Allure of False Paths and Became a Writer

A guest post by Barbara Scott Emmett


Like most writers I scribbled from an early age – poems and stories, homemade magazines for which I was the sole contributor – you know the sort of thing. You would think therefore that I was set on a brilliant writing career before I was out of junior school. Alas, like all hero(in)es my journey was beset by obstacles. Many were the byways I lost myself in before I found my One True Path. The Trolls of Indecision and The Lure of Other Artistic Outlets had to be conquered before I could reach my goal.

It started with The Jezzebels – note the two zeds. This was a girl group I set up with a couple of schoolmates, Sylvia and Hazel. Sylvia changed her name to Cilla, I called myself Bob, or Apples, (don’t ask – it really isn’t worth it) and Hazel sensibly stuck to her own name.

Oh how we entertained the neighbours – Hazel plinking away at my mother’s piano, me on my ten bob guitar and Cilla doing a Mick Jagger impression with the maraccas my brother brought back from British Guiana. Occasionally the brass candlesticks would be deployed – makes a satisfying chink, does brass.

Growing up and other life experiences got in the way of our glittering career. The Jezzebels faded from memory.

Travel, education and some failed relationships later, I took up Art. With Art I could mooch around moodily in paint-spattered jeans and suffer. My blue period John and Yoko was extremely well thought of; almost everyone could guess who it was meant to be.

Copying photographs and album covers was all very well but it was never going to make me the next Hockney. Despite a steady hand and a prediliction for painting in different shades of the one colour, I had to admit the truth: I lacked the spark of originality necessary for greatness.

The battered paintbox was slung to the back of the cupboard with the ten bob guitar.

I met up with writing again. We flirted and dabbled. Created satisfying sentences, felicitous phrases, veracious vignettes. But the Troll of Music hadn’t finished with me yet.

When a singer-songwriter boyfriend upped and went to Germany to pursue his career I was devastated. I coped with this rejection by deciding to outdo him. (I think this is known as the I’ll-get-you-you-bastard form of therapy.) Despite an inability to distinguish a B flat from an A minor, I equipped myself with a Fender acoustic and a Play in a Day instruction booklet. I learned all the chords I hadn’t bothered with in my earlier musical interlude.

In no time at all I was strumming along with my Nigerian friend Bowale while he slapped his congas and shouted in Yoruba. It was a kind of Sprechgesang but a lot louder. Astonishingly, we got gigs in pubs. Some of them actually gave us money. Other friends, inspired by our bewildering overnight success, muscled in on the action. Before long I was a member of a seven piece combo called Nigerian Grass and had acquired an electric guitar and an amplifier. The band now featured at least three real musicians. (Who let them in?)

We played on the then burgeoning Alternative Comedy circuit. (Reader, I shared a dressingroom with Paul Merton!) I put our success down to the fact that African music was becoming popular at that time but no one yet knew enough about it to realise what it should sound like. The highlight of our career was a gig at the Rock Garden. Which just goes to show you can get away with anything if you have thick enough skin. And a good sound engineer.

Sadly, musical differences (the fact that some of us could actually play an instrument while some of us, ahem, couldn’t) eventually split us up.

There was nothing else for it. I returned to my first and most lasting love: writing.

And I’ve never looked back. Well, apart from a brief foray into amateur dramatics but I soon hacked the head off that Troll. (Actually, it was my head that was hacked off. I played Dr Crippen’s wife and was poisoned, shot, chopped up and boiled. I only appeared in the first act.)

So after many adventures, after finding myself lost in numerous dark woods, after fending off all the dragons that tried to steer me from my course, I finally killed the Grendel, found the Grail, and married the princess.

Writing and I have been together for nearly thirty years now. We’ve spawned a clutch of novels, a fistful of short stories and a bunch of miscellaneous other scribblings.

And we’re still very much in love.


://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00FKJ1OCE/Barbara Scott Emmett’s new novel Delirium: The Rimbaud Delusion will be published in association with Triskele Books in October 2014. The ebook will be available from 1st August. Find out more about it here. (http://bit.ly/1rYqaDT )

Her other work is available from Amazon, Smashwords, and other online stores via Pentalpha Publishing Edinburgh. Find out more from her blog or website.

Check out An Erotic Conversation on this very blog, where Barbara and I discuss what constitutes hot writing.


Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/author/barbarascottemmett/
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/BarbaraScottEmmett/
Pentalpha: http://pentalphapublishing.weebly.com/
My Blog http://barbarascottemmett.blogspot.co.uk/
website http://www.emmettweb.co.uk/bse/


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