Publish & Prosper

An Inside Look at London Book Fair 2024

March 20, 2024 Matt Briel & Lauren Vassallo Season 1 Episode 17
An Inside Look at London Book Fair 2024
Publish & Prosper
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Publish & Prosper
An Inside Look at London Book Fair 2024
Mar 20, 2024 Season 1 Episode 17
Matt Briel & Lauren Vassallo

Matt & Lauren recap their time at London Book Fair 2024, one of the biggest publishing conferences in the world. Get the lowdown on hot topics from the conference, an insider's look at the event, and a special peek into what it’s like to travel with Team Lulu.

Dive Deeper

💡 Learn how (and why) Lulu is a Certified B Corp

💡 Watch this video on 5 Things to Know Before You Publish

💡 Check out Bublish’s new AI Author Toolkit 

💡 Hear more about creating audiobooks with DeepZen

Sound Bites From This Episode

🎙️ [15:08] “But I think this year because that's being accelerated in our industry in terms of the heightened awareness around indie creators and just what's happening here with direct sales and AI and all these other things, it did feel like, you know, we were all speaking the same language for once in terms of what the hot topics were.”

🎙️ [17:21] “I think it was that where it was last year we were doing the work of explaining to people what selling direct was. And this year, somewhere between last year and this year, that kind of sunk in. And now it was more along the lines of how can we help you do that?”

🎙️ [28:10] “There's always a moment where it clicks for people that they don't have to choose one or the other. And that to me is one of the light bulb moments that I love… whether it's talking about selling direct versus having your content in global distribution, you can do both of those things… The same is true for choosing between self-publishing and traditional publishing. You don't have to choose between self-publishing and traditional publishing.”

Send us a Text Message.

💀 Can’t wait for our next episode? Check out our Resources page for links to our blog,
our YouTube channel, and more.
💀 Find us on Facebook, X, Instagram, and LinkedIn at luludotcom!
💀 Email us at
💀 Sign up for our mailing list.

Show Notes Transcript

Matt & Lauren recap their time at London Book Fair 2024, one of the biggest publishing conferences in the world. Get the lowdown on hot topics from the conference, an insider's look at the event, and a special peek into what it’s like to travel with Team Lulu.

Dive Deeper

💡 Learn how (and why) Lulu is a Certified B Corp

💡 Watch this video on 5 Things to Know Before You Publish

💡 Check out Bublish’s new AI Author Toolkit 

💡 Hear more about creating audiobooks with DeepZen

Sound Bites From This Episode

🎙️ [15:08] “But I think this year because that's being accelerated in our industry in terms of the heightened awareness around indie creators and just what's happening here with direct sales and AI and all these other things, it did feel like, you know, we were all speaking the same language for once in terms of what the hot topics were.”

🎙️ [17:21] “I think it was that where it was last year we were doing the work of explaining to people what selling direct was. And this year, somewhere between last year and this year, that kind of sunk in. And now it was more along the lines of how can we help you do that?”

🎙️ [28:10] “There's always a moment where it clicks for people that they don't have to choose one or the other. And that to me is one of the light bulb moments that I love… whether it's talking about selling direct versus having your content in global distribution, you can do both of those things… The same is true for choosing between self-publishing and traditional publishing. You don't have to choose between self-publishing and traditional publishing.”

Send us a Text Message.

💀 Can’t wait for our next episode? Check out our Resources page for links to our blog,
our YouTube channel, and more.
💀 Find us on Facebook, X, Instagram, and LinkedIn at luludotcom!
💀 Email us at
💀 Sign up for our mailing list.

Matt: Welcome back to another episode of Publish & Prosper. Lauren and I are going to be talking about an event we just returned from, London Book Fair. As we record this, it is the 18th of March and we spent all last week in jolly old sunny, not so sunny England. 

Lauren: It was sunny one day for like 10 minutes. 

Matt: That's true. 

Lauren: We were lucky enough to be outside when it happened too. 

Matt: But expectations were low on the weather anyways, at least on my side. 

Lauren: Oh, same. We actually, when we went last year, it was beautiful. We went last year to London Book Fair. It was a month later, so it was in April, and the weather was gorgeous. Like, unexpectedly lovely. So I guess the turnabout for that? I don't want to say karma. It wasn't karma. I guess the price that we paid for that was that this year it was chilly and rainy pretty much every day we were there. 

Matt: Anytime somebody says turnabout, by the way, I immediately think of Johnny Fairplay. I knew you would appreciate that reference. 

Lauren: Yeah. 

Matt: I don't know if anybody else will, but that's okay. 

Lauren: We'll just leave people to figure it out. 

Matt: Yeah, it is weird though that they also, they moved the date.

Lauren: I wonder why. I wonder if it's because they're trying to, so I was actually, let's back up a little bit. I wanted to talk a little bit about London Book Fair for those of us that haven't worked in publishing for a decade and aren't familiar with it. So I was reading their About Me page and then their Wikipedia page. London Book Fair, for the uninitiated, started in 1971. It's been ongoing since then, give or take a few years. The 2020 one was supposed to be the 50th anniversary. I'm not entirely sure how that math maths out, but because I feel like a 50 would not have been 2021? No. Yeah. Okay. Maybe it's not always me that's bad at math. I don't know. But yeah, I think our team, not me, but other people on our team were already over there when things started shutting down in March of 2020. So that show got canceled. But one of the things that I was reading throughout it was that they have for years now, they've been hosting it at the Olympia London, which is this really, really cool historic convention center. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: It's like a really cool old building. And there was a window of time where they had moved it to another location and were, like, immediately met with backlash on that, because people liked having it at the Olympia. So I wonder if that's why they have to bump the dates around every now and then, because maybe if there's something more significant going on, the Olympia would prioritize that.

Matt: Yeah, I don't know. 

Lauren: I don't know. Although it's hard to imagine something more significant. I know that's coming from a place of bias. But London Book Fair is largely considered to be the second biggest worldwide publishing event. So it is not just a US publishing event. Obviously, it's happening in London, so it's not just the US publishing event, but it has publishers, vendors, agents, authors, et cetera, from all over the world. And it is the second biggest event in the world. Second only to Frankfurt Book Fair.

Matt: Is that based on stats or just anecdotally? 

Lauren: I think both. 

Matt: Yeah, it's big, no doubt. And I've been to Frankfurt, and I can tell you Frankfurt is even bigger, so. 

Lauren: Yeah? I've never been to Frankfurt. 

Matt: I think you're right on those things. We used to have our own in the US. And for those that remember, it was Book Expo America, or BEA. And I think it was probably considered somewhere in the top five of largest, RIP to BEA. 

Lauren: It was my favorite. I miss it all the time. 

Matt: I don't know if I'd say it was my favorite, but. 

Lauren: Oh, I loved it. 

Matt: When they started attaching BookCon to the end of it. That's when it got for me, really fun and cool. BEA in general was okay. 

Lauren: BEA - I mean, yeah, they both have their ups and downs for sure. Weirdly similar and yet very different from London Book Fair. BEA takes place or took place at the Javits Center in New York, which is also where New York Comic Con is every year, which is one of the largest Comic Cons in the country. I think that one is actually, I think it's the second largest only to San Diego. So massive, massive Comic Con, that gives you an idea of how big the convention center is there. But I do think that BEA was a little bit more focused on authors and trends specifically in what books were coming out. My favorite thing about BEA was that you could walk around and just by walking up and down the show floor, by the time you left, you would be leaving with a stack of 40 ARCs if you wanted to. Like you could just pick up free advanced reader copies of books from every publisher big and small. And that was obviously the coolest part. I have some really cool books that I've gotten from BEA. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: London Book Fair, nobody's doing that. Nobody's, it's not about promoting titles as much as it is about international book rights.

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: Sales and distribution, audio book rights, stuff like that. 

Matt: Definitely different goals, I think, or intentions for London Book Fair versus BEA. But I also think different approaches to the market. Like you said, at London Book Fair, there's a lot of the business side of again, international rights and all these other things, but it did seem like BEA was a little more about also trying to break out newer authors and newer genres and styles, which I think is why a lot of the publishers took more risks in handing out those free arcs versus some of the other book shows you go to. They're a little more guarded or if you're not writing an order, you're not getting a copy, things like that. But either way. I still think I like London Book Fair a little bit better, but that might just be because of the locale. 

Lauren: Yeah, I think you're biased because you love London. 

Matt: That's true. I do.

Lauren: Did you get to do anything fun in London?

Matt: I was just about to ask you -

Lauren: Oh, beat you to it.  

Matt: What were your top three favorite things, places, activities? Like what was your top three for London? 

Lauren: Well, I am a very basic girl. So literally the first thing I did, mostly because we had an overnight flight to get there and I had a crazy mess of a flight situation trying to get to London. So we got there at… I think it was, we landed at 6 a.m. London time. By the time we got to the hotel it was like 10 a.m. London time. And I was very determined to stay awake - 

Matt: As you should.

Lauren: Because that's always my solution for jet lag is what, no matter which way I'm going, whether we're going to the West Coast or we're going across the pond, whatever it is. I knew if I stayed in my hotel room, that wasn't going to happen. So literally the first thing I did once I like dropped myself off in my room and like turned around and walked out and went straight to the nearest Waterstones. So. Which was not the same Waterstones that I later dragged our entire team to that was a two mile walk away from our hotel.

Matt: I think that was more than two miles. 

Lauren: It was not. 

Matt: I think you were measuring kilometers and not miles, but either way - 

Lauren: I was using Google maps. It was two miles. 

Matt: All right. So one of your top threes was visiting Waterstones. 

Lauren: Visiting multiple bookstores. 
Matt: Multiple bookstores, gotcha.

Lauren: And getting - I love seeing the different UK editions of books. So I brought home like four books with me and only one of them was one that I haven't read already. The rest of them were just I wanted the UK editions of books. We ate a lot of really good food. 

Matt: What was one of your favorite meals? 

Lauren: Oh man, it's got to be the Italian that we had at Da Mario's. 

Matt: Oh yeah. 

Lauren: It was really good. 

Matt: Da Mario's. 

Lauren: Was it not? Was it - 

Matt: No, it was great. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. 

Lauren: Yeah, no, that was, that was really good. I don't get a lot of a good Italian food in North Carolina, so.

Matt: Also very fair, very true. Yeah, duh D-A Mario's was really good. 

Lauren: It was. Yeah. Yes it was. It was very good. And then honestly getting to walk around the city. 

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: You know, I didn't spend a lot - unfortunately, I didn't get to spend a whole lot of time before or after the conference in London. So I didn't do a lot of, like, touristy stuff or anything like that, but I love, I - that's one of the things I miss the most about being city adjacent is just getting to walk everywhere

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: Instead of driving places. Cause when you get to walk places, you get to see a lot more that you wouldn't necessarily notice while driving. 

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: So I love having everything just be walking distance, getting to do that. 

Matt: Yeah, I'd say that makes it into my top three also.

Lauren: Yeah?

Matt: Is no matter how many times I've been to London, which at this point is a lot, like I started going there in the mid to late 90s, off and on. Anyways, I love to just walk around the city or find little spots that I haven't necessarily walked through little neighborhoods or whatever. So that's definitely in my top three. Food also, so obviously fish and chips.

Lauren: Oh, we did have good fish and chips too. 

Matt: So my favorite is this place called Golden Union. 

Lauren: You've told us about this place. 

Matt: It's over in Oxford Circus by Soho. 

Lauren: Yeah.

Matt: Yeah. Man it's, it's absolutely the best. So shout out to Golden Union. I have to go there every year, sometimes multiple times while we're there. And I think third in my top three, I got to see this place called the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. So, went to Brighton for a few days. Brighton was really cool. This place, the Royal Pavilion was wild, man. It was, I think, for King George IV maybe. I'm gonna get that wrong and we're gonna get a bunch of hate mail. We're gonna get blasted on. 

Lauren: Shameful.

Matt: Anyways, it was really cool because this palace, basically it was a palace, it was basically built for whichever king, I know I'm forgetting, I think it was George IV though. It was basically built for him to like just party and have parties and hang out. But the decor was all basically mashup of different Asian styles. So a ton of really cool like old Japanese wallpaper and there were big ornate dragons everywhere in there. It was just wild. 

Lauren: Oh my god it’s beautiful.

Matt: It was really cool. Yeah. It's, it's one of the most different palaces or castles or anything I've ever seen while being over in the UK. 

Lauren: Yeah.

Matt: And I did not have those expectations going in. It's just, we just thought, okay, we'll go check it out. It's something to do, but it was amazing. It was really wild. I really liked that. It's probably one of the coolest things I've ever seen. 

Lauren: Wow. Yeah. This is a really cool. Just the pictures that I'm seeing just from Googling it. This looks gorgeous. And also you are correct. 

Matt: Was it?

Lauren: It was King George IV. There you go. 

Matt: See, sometimes I remember things. I've been accused of having the memory of a goldfish, but. 

Lauren: Same. Yeah. That’s why we write everything down. Well, that's awesome. 

Matt: All right, what's one thing you could do without in London or at London Book Fair? One thing, if it just didn't exist next time, you'd be totally fine with that. 

Lauren: Hmm. Oh gosh, that's a really good question. 

Matt: You know what, I'll go, I’ll go first. 

Lauren: Okay, because my first answer was really mean. 

Matt: I would love if over there in London and in the UK in general, they could normalize their standards for bathrooms and showers. I'll start off in one hotel and it's got a fairly normal shower. And then you go to another hotel and you're basically climbing into the narrowest of bathtubs that has for some reason been raised up off the floor. 

Lauren: Oh, like a solid eight inches off the ground. 

Matt: Like two feet. Oh yeah, absolutely. 

Lauren: Like why. 

Matt: My head's touching the ceiling. 

Lauren: Yes.

Matt: And there's no shower curtains ever. Like they just don't believe in them. So I'm literally covering my bathroom floor and towels, which means I run out of towels. So I don't know what it is or why they don't like retrofit, but if London could somehow listen to this podcast and please update and normalize your bathroom standards across the city in all hotels that would be super awesome. And I realize right now I probably sound like the most privileged American - 

Lauren: No.

Matt: Person complaining but I mean I honestly had my head touching the ceiling at that bathroom and it was wild and a little bit unnerving. 

Lauren: We actually like the whole team had a conversation about this at one point because everyone was comparing notes, because everyone's rooms were a little bit different. Like we stayed in this hotel that I think is probably like an old cool hotel. 

Matt: It's an older Hilton, yeah. 

Lauren: But it was clearly like it was, they like, you know, modified an existing building to fit a hotel into it. So it had all those really cool quirks of old buildings that weren't like cookie cutter, shoe box, hotel rooms all put into a place together. But it meant that every single one of us had a little bit of a different room and we were all comparing notes on how our rooms were different. Every single person had a different style bathroom in some way. That was one thing we noticed. I did have a shower curtain in mine. 

Matt: You had a shower curtain? 

Lauren: I did. 

Matt: I had this - 

Lauren: The glass partition?

Matt: I had a glass partition. A partition is being nice. 

Lauren: I know.

Matt: Now, mind you, this glass partition or sliver, I should say, was about six inches wide. That's it. And it was right up against where the, you know, where the shower head was. So every bit of water came out of the shower onto the floor. 

Lauren: I can't imagine. 

Matt: It was wild. 

Lauren: Somebody finally took a picture and showed it to me and I was like, this this must be a mistake. Like you must be joking with this. No, I think for me, actually, my answer would be… one of the side effects, one of the coolest things about London Book Fair is that there's people coming from all over the world. But one of the side effects of that is that nobody can quite decide where they're supposed to be walking at any given time. 

Matt: I knew that’s where you were going. Yep. 

Lauren: And it's also just a side effect of conventions in general. 

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: I've been to plenty, whether they've been small book conferences, New York Comic Con and everything in between. People have a bad habit of walking up and down aisles at whatever pace they feel like. And if they see something that catches their attention, they will stop dead in the middle of walking with no warning and no awareness of the fact that other people are walking behind them. So there was definitely a lot of… every time that I had to leave our booth to go anywhere, I was always like, you know, just 50/50 odds I'm going to wind up either accidentally or intentionally punching somebody on the way back here. 

Matt: Or at a very minimum, planting your face in their back because they stopped short and you couldn't stop in time. 

Lauren: Just stopped dead on a staircase. Just stop like just completely in the middle of the staircase, which half the people are walking on the right side and half people are walking on the left side because no one can figure out which side they're supposed to be walking on. It was a lot, you know, maybe some clearer guidelines. Like I honestly would not be opposed. Remember like early COVID times when they were literally like they were like arrows. 

Matt: In grocery stores. Yeah.

Lauren: Yeah, like I, I don't think it would be a terrible idea to go back to that system, honestly. 

Matt: You might be onto something. 

Lauren: I'm just saying. 

Matt: All right. 


Lauren: But despite all of that, and despite some things that we would have changed and my general fear of leaving our booth at any given time, which honestly was hard to do because there was really never any downtime at our booth. We were in the back section of the show floor that was the Author HQ, and the Indie Author HQ, and a bunch of self-publishers and print on demand companies like Lulu, and an author's lounge and a stage where there were sessions and events going on specifically for the authors that were in attendance. So we were in a cool protected little corner of the conference that felt like a good place to be. I guess I didn't have to worry about navigating traffic too much because we were exactly where we wanted to be for most of the time. And we had a pretty steady flow of people coming to talk to us.

Matt: Yeah, I agree. And honestly, I feel like this year compared to last year, there was more foot traffic and I think that there was more awareness of that section for indie publishing. And I honestly think that that's just indicative of the industry right now. I will say that, and maybe it's because it's so multinational at this event that it does seem like whenever we do go to London Book Fair, that whatever's being talked about or whatever the trend is that people are focusing on, it does seem to be a year behind us, sometimes.

Lauren: True.

Matt: Maybe sometimes more. But I think this year because that's being accelerated in our industry in terms of the heightened awareness around indie creators and just what's happening here with direct sales and AI and all these other things, it did feel like, you know, we were all speaking the same language for once in terms of what the hot topics were. And so I think because of that, there was a lot more traffic in that area, which was cool. And I think - as we'll get into here in a minute, eventually, I promise, for the five of you that are listening, we're gonna get to the... 

Lauren: We're gonna get to a point somewhere in here. 

Matt: That's right. I do think that we got a lot of questions that were a little more focused on what we tend to be focusing on here in the States more often than not, as well as just our industry in general. So I thought it was really good overall, yeah.

Lauren: Yeah, I agree. You know, one of the things that we're gonna talk about here is the main topics of conversation that we heard and things that we heard from a lot of people and things that seem to be top of mind for attendees and for the sessions and stuff like that. And number one on the list was selling direct, which obviously if you've listened to this podcast at all. 

Matt: Dun, dun, dun.

Lauren: Like, brand new information. Clearly we've been talking about this for a very long time, so. But I agree, last year, first of all, we had the same booth set up this year that we did last year, which was in both cases, a lot of the design and the collateral that we were handing out and stuff like that was specifically speaking to the idea of selling direct and using Lulu Direct to sell directly to your customers. And last year, when people would come up to us and they would say ‘what is this? Like, what do you mean by this? What is selling direct?’ And we would go on to say, oh, you know, Lulu Direct is a plugin tool that you can use to sell your books directly to your customers from your own website. We would get kind of these blank looks back from people that was partially like, ‘I don't understand the words you're saying,’ and partially like, ‘why would I want to do that anyway?’ And this year it was almost the opposite where it was… people were coming up to us because they saw the words Selling Direct or Shopify and WooCommerce and Wix on our booth and were coming up to us. And when we said we have an ecommerce plugin tool, you'd see their eyes light up and they go, ‘oh, really?’ 

Matt: Or I can't tell you how many people walked up and they pointed to one of the USPs on our booth and they said, what do you mean I can keep all my profits? 

Lauren: Yeah. Yes

Matt: Keep my profits. That sounds really cool. Talk to me about that. 

Lauren: Yes. But yeah, absolutely. I think it was that where it was last year we were doing the work of explaining to people what selling direct was. And this year, somewhere between last year and this year, that kind of sunk in. And now it was more along the lines of how can we help you do that? 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: We didn't have to explain the idea to them. 

Matt: The concept. 

Lauren: Yeah, they were on board with the concept. And now it was like, how do I go about doing that? 

Matt: We get to talk about the mechanics and logistics of it. 

Lauren: Right. So it's fun, I think it's fun to see the evolution of that. 

Matt: Yeah. And for the record, everybody there was talking about it - 

Lauren: Oh yeah.

Matt: In our section. So you had sessions that were happening, talks from authors and other people in the industry. You had people like Joanna Penn and Orna Ross and Michael La Ronn. They were talking about trends in self-publishing, which obviously included AI for authors, another dun dun dun. 

Lauren: Yep. 

Matt: And direct sales. Again, I think those are the only two topics we've been talking about now. 

Lauren: They are, they have been very popular. Also, spoiler alert, we bumped the episode - we had recorded the next episode before we left for London and we bumped it to publish next week to put this one out instead. 

Matt: To bring you this, this, you know, audio gem of excellence. So you're welcome.

Lauren: It's our best episode yet. But the episode that we recorded before leaving for London that is going to come out next week is about AI for authors. So right on track, right on trend. We're aware and our competitors are aware and experts in our industry are all aware that these are the two top topics. 

Matt: Yes. 

Lauren: That sounds so weird. These are the two top topics that are top of mind for indie authors and creators right now. One thing that I will say about AI, unless you wanted to talk more about selling direct. 

Matt: I'm sure we'll touch on it again later. 

Lauren: I'm sure, I'm sure we'll talk about selling direct at least once an episode, every episode for the rest of this podcast. But one thing that I wanted to mention with the AI for authors conversation, because this episode that's coming out was recorded before we left for London, I have an update. And that was that when we were in London, we learned that Bublish has a brand new AI author toolkit available on their website. It's really cool. It was something that they built from scratch that they're really excited about. And it's basically a tool that authors can upload their manuscripts to this AI tool. And it'll generate a report for them that'll give them everything from suggestions for their title and cover copy and book description and all of that, to suggestions for BISAC codes and like other metadata details and keywords and Amazon categories and everything. So it's really a tool designed to help authors position their books in the market better.

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: Which I think sounds fantastic. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: And really awesome so I was really excited to learn about that. And I literally was like sitting there having this conversation and being like I got to figure out a way to add that into that episode that we already recorded. 

Matt: No, I think that’s great.

Lauren: So, shouting it out here instead. 

Matt: I think people should be aware of some of these tools as they become available, especially something like that because aside from this event in general, and we've talked about it before on the show many times, we've done several episodes on different facets of marketing, but one of the things we get asked about most often is marketing my book. And that's what the show is about is obviously selling more books, marketing your book, being able to prosper from... But so, you know, having a tool like that or a toolkit, I should say, while I haven't used it yet, it sounds great. 

Lauren: Yeah. 

Matt: And we know Bublish does quality work. So I bet it's a great toolkit, so. The other thing that we saw, I saw, we saw, obviously, audiobooks are still a thing and they're still kind of growing in popularity. While they're kind of taking a backseat conversation wise to AI and direct sales, audiobooks nonetheless are a very important component for indie authors especially. There can be a nice fat margin in audio book sales for indie authors. Whereas, you know, ebooks and things like that often don't have as big of a margin, especially if you price them with what the market averages, but there's a lot of tools out there right now. And we saw several there and in general AI-based tools that are helping people get their audiobooks created much cheaper and faster using AI and AI narration. And some of it is really cool.

Lauren: Yeah. 

Matt: And there's some cool companies doing things like that. One of them is DeepZen. DeepZen is a company that does AI, audiobook creation and narration, some really cool stuff happening there. So it's another great way for indie authors to be able to utilize another format for their work, create another stream of revenue and be able to keep up in the market. 

Lauren: Yeah. I am a - I'm sure I've talked about this on the podcast before - I am a very big fan of audiobooks. I listen to a lot of audiobooks. That's basically, there's never a time where I have no audio playing at all. It's never completely silent in my presence and not just because I'm running my mouth all the time. There's always either music, an audiobook or a podcast playing at any given time. So I, that's one of the things that I found very interesting to pay attention to at London Book Fair this year, was the overall presence of audiobooks. And the fact that these conversations, not only are they not going away, but they're actually like becoming more prevalent, I think, like people are more aware of audiobooks. At London Book Fair this year was the first time that I ever remember multiple indie authors that were stopping by our booth asking me about audiobooks and about Lulu's ability to distribute audiobooks. 

Matt: Right. 

Lauren: So, clearly something that people are paying attention to. There was also, Spotify had a pretty big presence -

Matt: Yep.

Lauren: At the convention this year. 

Matt: Yeah, shout out to Spotify.

Lauren: They had a beautiful booth. 

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: Oh my God, their booth was gorgeous.

Matt: They probably had the coolest booth. Probably the only people that gave us a running for a cool booth. 

Lauren: Yeah. Yeah, no. 

Matt: They actually didn't give us a running, they beat us. 

Lauren: Oh, yeah. 

Matt: That booth was really well done. So again, shout out to Spotify. 

Lauren: Great swag too. 

Matt: I didn't get any, so I don't know. 

Lauren: Oh, they had a tote bag. Which, really thought I was over ever getting tote bags ever again. 

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: But it was a actually like really nice quality tote bag and it's massive. Like it's a really big, really big tote bag. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: So definitely that was literally the one and only piece of conference swag that I picked up at any point during the three days that we were there and brought it home with me. 

Matt: And also just to clarify, uh, we did get asked about audiobooks a lot and to set the record in motion, I guess I should say, given the context of when this was recorded, but… we are working on it. We will have the ability for authors to also sell and distribute audiobooks through Lulu. So keep your eyes and ears peeled for that, but it's in the works. It will be delivered at some point soon and we're all excited about it. 

Lauren: I don't know if you meant it to be or not, but I'm choosing to assume that was a pun. Keep your ears peeled for audiobooks. 

Matt: I said eyes and ears. 

Lauren: I know. 

Matt: But yeah. 

Lauren: I know, but still. 

Matt: All right.

Lauren: I'm trying to give you credit for something there. So just take it. 


Matt: Yeah. What are some other things that, um, that you were asked about at the booth? I don't think we actually got a lot of time amongst ourselves to talk about - 

Lauren: No. 

Matt: Some of the conversations we had because it was, you know, happening pretty quickly and then by the time we all checked out after the show, it was like, let's go get dinner and talk about something else. What were some of the things you were asked about? 

Lauren: I think one of the questions that - or not necessarily one of the questions, cause this kind of covers a lot of questions that people were asking, were people that were coming up to the booth and saying like, ‘hey, I'm thinking about self-publishing, I'm thinking about following this route. What do I need to know before I get started?’ Which is first of all, a great question to be asking at a conference. 

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: That's kind of the point of going to an event like that, is to information-gather from all of these different people and kind of crowdsource that information and say like, ‘hey, like, what do I need to know? Because I don't know what I don't know.’ So there was just overall, got a lot of questions that were related to that. And that could probably be an entire episode all on its own. But some of the things that we could talk about that we would tell people about that: 

Number one, know your goals for your book ahead of time. Are you using your book as a way to bring in an additional revenue stream? Are you using your book as a lead generation tool? Are you using your book as supplemental content for an online course? Are you writing fiction and you want to be the next New York Times bestseller or the next TikTok sensation? Know your goals ahead of time because that's gonna kind of influence all the other decisions that you make.

Which would lead me to point number two, which is your sales and distribution plans and options.

So like if you are using your book as a way to grow your brand and your business, you're probably going to want to look into a direct sales option. So you want to make sure that you're choosing a publisher that can do that with you. 

Matt: See, for me, not to jump in, but just on this point before I forget, because remember, I have the memory of a goldfish. I was getting questions regarding sales and distribution plans, or I was having to initiate that conversation on the back of a direct sales conversation. Because I think what's happening is a lot of people who have not tried direct sales yet and are used to just putting it in the hands of Amazon and letting it go. When faced with the idea of talking about or thinking about direct sales, now all of a sudden they do have to think a little harder about what their sales and distribution plan will be. 

Lauren: Yes. 

Matt: Because now they're in charge of it if you're pursuing direct sales. And so because direct sales is many different things, it's not just selling directly from your website, right? You can run a Kickstarter and that's a form of direct sales. You can be selling your books from a table at an event. That's actually a form of direct sales. And so understanding that direct sales takes many different forms and can be done or initiated in many different ways. Having conversations with people, beginning conversations about sales and distribution plans because of the idea of direct sales, right? So obviously direct sales is one sales channel that you can utilize. But in general, it's a channel that has multiple sub-channels. And so those were fun conversations to have. They're great conversations. The minute people really start wrapping their heads around direct sales, that's when they really start hitting you with the questions of, okay,  how do I do this and what about this? And that's where I have fun. When that light bulb moment happens for them, that's a lot of fun for me. And 10 minute conversations for me turned into 30 minute conversations where, by the end of it, people had note cards in their hands where they'd sketched out the next six months of sales and distribution plans. 

Lauren: Absolutely can confirm from watching Matt specifically at London Book Fair he never had a conversation that was less than five minutes long. But they always looked - 

Matt: Keep that in mind for anybody out there that approaches me in an event. If you come up to me with any decent question, I will probably talk your ear off for 30 - 40 minutes. 

Lauren: But I mean, people were walking away with just absolute gold in information. 

Matt: I hope so. 

Lauren: They really were. 

Matt: Or they're like, get me out of here. Where's the nearest exit? 

Lauren: That's fine. One of the other things though with sales and distribution, in addition to everything that you just said, one of the things that I've talked about a lot with people at conferences when they ask about, you know, what do I need to know before I publish or what are my sales and distribution options? How do I go about doing this? There's always a moment where it clicks for people that they don't have to choose one or the other. And that to me is one of the light bulb moments that I love. 

Matt: Sure. 

Lauren: When people realize - and that can go, whether it's talking about selling direct versus having your content in global distribution, you can do both of those things. You can sell direct from your website and also have your book on Amazon and wherever else you want it. We've talked about that, but that same is true for choosing between self-publishing and traditional publishing. You don't have to choose between self-publishing and traditional publishing. And I definitely talked to a handful of people at this conference that were saying, like, you know, I have this book, I've been sitting on it for like a year. I've gone, had so many different conversations with agents and with traditional publishing routes, and it's just like not working out, it's not working out. But I also don't want this book to like, die in the obscurity of my Google Docs folder on my laptop. So I'm considering self-publishing it, but does that mean that I can never traditionally publish this or any other book ever again? And the answer to that is no. Like you absolutely can do both. And there are also, I mean, this is one in a million case, but there are stories out there of authors who self-published a book and the book did well enough that it got picked up by a traditional publisher post-publication.

Matt: Oh yeah, I mean, there's countless examples of that. Even now, there's just a ton of them. I mean, everybody knows all the famous ones, right? Like E.L. James and a bunch of the others, but absolutely -

Lauren: I mean, literally right now, Olivie Blake, The Atlas Complex, Atlas Six is the first book in the series. The Atlas Six was a self-published book. I have a POD copy of it self-published and the third book in the series just came out a month ago. Traditionally published by Tor, hardcover edition, beautiful, exclusive Barnes & Nobles editions and stuff like that. Like that is the evolution in a trilogy of how quickly she went from a self published book that did very well, got picked up by a traditional publisher, and by the end of the trilogy, they have it like - 

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: They're doing the works. So it happens. It happens. You can definitely, you don't have to choose either or you can explore all of your options.

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: And I love watching that moment when I have those conversations with people at conferences and they're like, oh, I can? Yes, yes, you can. Let's try it. 


Lauren: What about you? What was, what was a question that you got a lot? 

Matt: I got a lot of questions also around what exactly can I do with print on demand. So I think a lot of people again, are used to just - for self publishing anyways - they put it into KDP or Amazon. And it's just kind of like a set it and forget it thing. And with that, you don't have a lot of options for print, especially formatting. So I just don't think people really know, like, if I'm taking control of my, my sales and distribution plans and my marketing, I'm really trying to, to make a go of this. And you do have to become a little more familiar with print on demand and what your options are. And so we got a lot of questions and I, or I did, I don't know about everybody else, but just around, you know, again, what can I do? Like, what can I do to my book cover to make it look cool? What's possible with hardcovers versus paperback or… so I spent a lot of time talking about that, the things that are available, a lot of the customizations and some of the things that… So we had some samples obviously at our booth and we also had some samples of some things that we're going to be dropping this year for print on demand, covers especially, right?

Lauren: Yeah. 

Matt: Some things that will set us apart from some of our competitors and things people have been asking for so they can do really cool special editions and so, I did spend a lot of time talking to people about not only print on demand but more specifically like what exactly can you do with print on demand, cover and interior, so that they had a better understanding of if I am going to take this journey of selling direct or whatever that might be knowing that you can create a better product. And it's not much harder - if you've already got the files because you were using them on some other site, taking those files and updating them to do something even cooler is not that hard. And in some instances you can do it yourself. And in other instances you might need an hour of a designer's time, but you can really do some super cool stuff with hardcovers and ribbon bookmarks, and raised foil printing, all kinds of really cool stuff. 

Lauren: We had a book on display at our booth that was kind of a sneak peek of some of the things that we're exploring being able to do for these special editions, and I just, I couldn't get over how good this book looked. Like, I kept picking it up when people weren't around and just kind of flipping through it and looking at the different details on it - 

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: And being like, damn, this came out really cool. Like, this looks really cool. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: There was actually, one guy came up to me at one point and he asked if… He asked if we had samples of all of our different book types at the booth. And that was literally my reaction was I laughed. 

Matt: We would need a booth four times the size of the one we had. 

Lauren: Yeah. And he's like, what do you mean? Why why'd you laugh? And I said, you know, we've got when you consider all the different permutations and combinations 

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: Of our trim sizes and binding types and interior pages and stuff like that, I think it's something like over 3,000 total possible combinations. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: That's a library. 

Matt: Oh yeah, yeah. 

Lauren: We would need a literal library to have all of those. 

Matt: There's enough combinations, there's enough numbers there that a Las Vegas card counter would probably pass out still trying to figure it out. It's massive. 

Lauren: Yeah.

Matt: But yeah, some of the side conversations that come out of those are things, again, relating to quality. So you get a lot of questions about what can I do, but then that leads to, well, what does it look like? 

Lauren: Yep.

Matt: And so again, having these samples at the booth was really helpful. When people see these things, like you said, that one you just kept checking it out whenever you could. The sample books that we had at our booth, we could have walked a handful of those over to the Simon & Schuster booth and set ours right next to it, and you would not have known the difference. 

Lauren: Yeah.

Matt: And in fact, if you did, it would have probably been to say, oh, these that that Lulu person just walked over actually look better than the ones that Simon & Schuster brought to the show. I mean, the quality of POD these days, for most POD print shops anyways, is indistinguishable from what you would find in the bookstore. And as you also just alluded to earlier, many times what you're now seeing in bookstores are self-published, sometimes print-on-demand books because the quality has gotten so good and people are utilizing designers or getting help with their work so that they do produce quality books using that technology. So that was also really cool to see people look at a book and go, this is print-on-demand? 

Lauren: Yeah.

Matt: And again, we get to have a little chuckle and go, yep. 

Lauren: Yeah, it is. It is a very satisfying thing to watch. And that's coming from somebody who is a snob. I absolutely like, I fully before I started working at Lulu, had a chip on my shoulder about self-publishing. Like I was one of those people that was like, yeah know, okay, sure. Like it's going to be like terrible quality books inside and out. No way. And I've done a complete 180 on that. And I'm now like a full evangelist for self-publishing now at this point. But yeah, it's always fun to watch people pick up a book and be like, oh, wow, this is beautiful quality. And I'm like, yeah.

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: That's normal. We had those, like the books that we had at our booth at London, we ordered a couple of weeks before and had shipped to our hotel. Like it wasn't anything special. It wasn't like we, you know, worked really hard to make sure that these books were going to be like the perfect example. We didn't even see them until… like we opened the box that the books came in. 

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: When we got to the booth and they, that was just the normal quality that they come out as. 

Matt: Yeah. A couple actually were just grabbed off my office desk and packed in a suitcase too. So it's not like they were handled with kid gloves or it's not like they rode first class over the pond to the UK. Like they got some wear and tear and they still looked amazing. 

Lauren: Yeah. Well that's because someone makes fun of me for my book sleeves that I travel with all the time. My books came back in perfect condition. The ones that I bought in London. 

Matt: Fair enough. 


Lauren: Hand in hand with that, with the quality and the product types. One of the questions that we got over and over again that I love getting, and I will never get tired of answering this question, is about the sustainability and environmentally conscious aspects of Lulu books and print-on-demand publishing. I had a couple of different people come up and say, like you know, this is really important to me, and so I wanna know, I wanna know that the printer that I'm working with is using high quality products, but also environmentally friendly products. 

Matt: Yeah, yeah.

Lauren: Not to toot our own horn or anything, but Lulu is a B Corp, and last time I checked, we were the only self-publishing print on demand company that is a B Corp. 

Matt: Yeah. As far as I know, that's still true. 

Lauren: And you know, we've talked a lot about that in other episodes. 

Matt: Sure as hell ain’t gonna be Amazon.

Lauren: That’s true. But when it comes specifically to the materials and products that we're using, that is part of what we needed to do as part of our certification as a B Corp. So some of the things are pretty standard in the publishing industry. Industry-wide people are printing on acid free paper. Like there really aren't any alternatives to that at this point. But you know, we also take it a step further and all of our paper, in addition to being acid free paper, is PEFC and FSC certified paper, which means - 

Matt: Yeah, approved and certified. Yep. 

Lauren: Yeah. Which means that it's approved as coming from sustainable places. So we are for all the paper that we're using, we're also then replenishing the supply and giving back to the environment with that and a handful of other things. There's actually a blog post that we're working on right now that I think should be done in time for this episode to air. So I will link to it in the show notes if you want to learn more about the specific details of what makes Lulu a B Corp. But it was just really nice to get to hear people asking about that and like hearing people consider that a priority. 

Matt: And also I think for a lot of people, they don't understand how a publishing and printing company could be good for the environment or ecologically friendly or even B Corp certified. I had one gentleman say, what do you mean you don’t use recycled paper? How can you be B Corp? If you don’t use recycled paper. 

Lauren: I had someone say that to me too!

Matt: Yeah. And people don't realize that at least for books, I can't speak for other industries, but in the book industry and in general, recycled paper actually isn't always that great for the environment because to make recycled paper it's got to be thoroughly bleached and a bunch of other processing that goes into it so that you can use it for a book. So technically recycled paper, or books that use recycled paper, they aren't always the most environmentally or ecologically friendly sources at all. 

Lauren: Right. That's not to say that the recycled paper is always bad. And you know, when you're looking at like this shopping bag was made with recycled paper or this cardboard box that my frozen pizza came in was made with recycled paper, like that's fine because it's not being bleached to the point that it has to be a crisp white page.

Matt: Right.

Lauren: The way that paper that's being used for a book is. 

Matt: Right.

Lauren: Yeah, I got that question too from somebody. And I was like, no, what?

Matt: Which I guess to be fair, before I worked here, I didn't quite understand that either. It is something that is probably not as well known, but nonetheless. 

Lauren: Yeah, true.

Matt: We had questions that would come up, I think during the sustainability conversations, but also in general, people trying to understand, really again, the benefits of print on demand versus offset printing or the old school standard sort of bulk offset printing way. We won't go too much into that here, but - 

Lauren: We've got a whole episode on it if you want to learn more about it. 

Matt: Yeah, and again, I think it just shows that people are learning, they're trying to evolve, they're trying to progress, and in doing so, they're trying to understand POD as a way to… to minimize upfront costs, because you don't like with bulk offset printing, have to buy 2,000 copies at once. It is better for the environment because you're only printing when somebody actually purchases a book instead of printing 2,000 upfront and letting them sit around or get pulped because nobody bought them. So yeah, I mean those, those are cool conversations I have and it's cool to see that people are starting to pay attention to that and really want to… they want to produce as many books as possible, but they want to do it in the most environmentally and ecologically sound way. 

Lauren: Yeah, it's great to see. 


Matt: So there were probably any number of 10 to 20 more questions that were fairly regular, and then a lot of the outliers that we get asked on occasion, most of which we don't have time to get into in this episode. I think the ones we covered were probably the ones that we all heard on the most regular basis. I mean, there was at any given time between four and six of us in our booth. So there were a lot of conversations happening, but even, you know, listening to others' conversations, I think we captured the most of what people were asking us about at London Book Fair. And I guess most importantly, you know where to go for a good fish and chips. So I don't think there's really much else we need to accomplish with this episode. 

Lauren: No, I think, I think we did what we set out to do. And, you know, in the meantime, if you are thinking that maybe there were some individual questions at London Book Fair that you would like to know more about, or if you have questions that you'd like us to answer. You know, maybe it's time to start opening up the floor for, if you have some questions for us.

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: Feel free to send us an email.

Matt: Yep. 

Lauren: You know, maybe we’ll aggregate a list of some of the top questions that we get from people and we'll do an episode at some point in the future where we just kind of tackle FAQs and questions from our listeners and stuff like that. So if you have anything in mind that you want an answer to, you can always email us at 

Matt: Perfect. 

Lauren: I did just immediately blank out on the email. So I really hope I said that right. As I was like rolling into that sentence, I was like, man, I hope the words are going to come out because I can't remember what they are. 

Matt: Man. yeah, it's You are correct.

Lauren: Great. 

Matt: It's the most basic of basic email addresses ever. 

Lauren: This is what happens when we try to record an episode at 48 hours after returning back into the country. 

Matt: That's fair. 

Lauren: I'm still not like, I'm still adjusting time zone-wise which is silly, but. We time traveled.

Matt: Well. For all of you that made it this far in the episode. Thank you. We absolutely appreciate it. Again, please hit us up with any questions or suggestions or unhinged hatred you might have for some of our commentary at And until next time, have fun. 

Lauren: Thanks for listening.