Row upon row of books lined the new Centre at the Forks space at Museum London this past weekend, as authors displayed their works at the Souwesto Book Expo – hosted by the London Writers Society.
The expo was part of Wordsfest – an annual event that celebrates the written word featuring many great local and regional writers.
Wares ranged from fiction, to history, poetry, even graphic novels. More than 40 writers had their works on display.
Artistic Director for Wordsfest, Josh Lambier, said year over year, poetry continues to be one of the largest scenes in London, with comics and graphic novels also on the rise.
The expo was formerly known as the Local Authors Book Fair, and held at the Covent Garden Market. However, the venue was changed to Museum London in recent years to bring it closer to Wordsfest.
While Writers Society volunteers helped administer sales at the expo, many local and regional authors were also there to meet the public, and showcase their works.
Among them was Justine Dowsett, publisher and founder of Mirror World Publishing out of Windsor.
A former video game publisher, Dowsett ventured off on her own in 2014, and hasn’t looked back.
Mirror Works focuses on escapism fiction – anything set in a different time or place, anything that provides a distraction to modern times.
“The world is tough sometimes,” she said. “It’s good to get away from it with something that sucks you in.”
Genre fiction of the type put out by Mirror Works can be a tough sell, Dowsett said, in a market that is dominated by poetry and memoirs. However steep the hill though, she said she’s up to the challenge. Many of their sales are online.
Since their inception, Mirror Works has published 30 books ranging from children’s books to young adult and adult fiction.
From L.A. to London
One of the most prolific authors at the expo was Pat Brown – a seven-year member of the London Writers Society and author of 17 books. Her specialty is mystery, police procedural and historical.
“I’ve written all my life,” she explained.
Her first published book, L.A. Heat, is a police procedural novel set in Los Angeles, where Brown lived for about a decade. That first book spawned an entire L.A. series, and the titles just kept coming.
The hardest part of being an author isn’t the writing, she said, it’s promotions. Even with a publisher, most of the work falls on the author. There are several avenues to take with self-promotion, she said, including online, bookstores and book tours. However, the most effective promotion is from readers themselves.
“The only way to get a best-seller is word of mouth,” she said.
Volunteering at the Writers Society table on Sunday, Brown takes time to address people who approach and ask about literature, writing, and the nature of the group itself. Just this past weekend alone, the LWS signed up more than a dozen new members.
The most common question people have when joining the group is how to get published.
A growing movement
Lambier noted the writers society is one of the most active groups in the city, and Wordsfest provides one weekend a year to show just how active the group is for the other 362 days.
Getting more authors to contribute to the Souwesto Book Expo is a slow process, he said, with the goal of building it year over year along with the festival itself.
Still, it’s a challenge to get writers in the city and the region to come and submit their work, he said. And yet, that is exactly the appeal of the expo – a chance for writers who may not be on the store shelves to interact directly with readers.
“Most literary fests in canada will offer the stage to people you will see in a recognized book store,” he said. “We do that with the words festival, but we also want to provide the space for people who are emerging and don’t have a major press.
“Some people want to self publish… We don’t really have a restriction on what genres we want to show.”
What’s going on
As for literary trends in London, there are many areas of strength, but poetry has become a very social medium in London, as have comic and graphic artists. Science fiction is also enjoying an increase in popularity.
The London Writers Society meets the third Tuesday of each month in the Dundas Room of the London Public Library, except for December and August. All are welcome to attend whether they are a member of the society or not.
Meeting times are 6:30 – 8:45 p.m.