London Book Fair 2014 – death of print books is exaggerated

The London Book Fair attracts book sellers and buyers from around the world. This year it is being held in Earls Court. I was there with Ann Kingdom on Tuesday. We were there for two reasons. Ann participated in one of the early seminars on the first day and we were to try and market the Society of Indexers, and indexing in general, to publishers and other exhibitors, and I was hoping to target some in my areas of expertise.

The seminar was a joint event with the Society of Indexers, the Society for Editors and Proofreaders, the Institute of Translating and Interpreting and the Chartered Institute of Linguists. The aim was to explore how editors, proofreaders, translators and indexers work together behind the scenes before publication and the added-value these professional bodies provide to the publishing industry. Each organisation fielded a speaker and the format was a series of questions posed by the chair, sometimes to all of them, sometimes to just one. As the audience was mixed, the information imparted was necessarily of a general nature, but the listeners gained an awareness of the special requirements of each of these professions, and the need for dialogue between authors, translators, editors and indexers to ensure that the author’s intent was preserved as their work passed through the hands of these professionals.

The second reason for our attendance was to ‘spread the word’ about the Society and its activities among the exhibitors at the show. The Society has prepared a small leaflet and armed with a handful I sought out some likely targets. There were exhibitors from all over the world, so a fair number of potential targets were not relevant. The exhibitors’ booths ranged from those of large international publishers such as Hachette, who had the largest single stand area, to tiny booths with just room for one chair and a table. The purpose of the exhibitors at the fair was to sell books so they sent people to man the stands who were from marketing and sales departments. They were not the people who edit the books and who might have needed to know where to find an indexer. Ninety of the smaller publishers were represented by the Independent Publishers Guild, so together they had a larger stand area and could share the costs of attending the event. It was therefore hard to find anyone to approach among the publishers, and several of those I spoke to had previous experience of the Society. Among the publishing solutions exhibitors I found a few in the ‘self-publishing’ market who had not heard of the Society. I think this highlights how important it is for individual indexers to market themselves directly to publishers.

The good news is that there were plenty of printed books on show. The death of the printed book has been greatly exaggerated. It may be hard to find work as a new indexer, but I’m encouraged that there is still a large pool of potential work out there.

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