#NIBFEST; Books and Blogs, a conversation.

“if Jane Austen were alive she would totally have a blog”

The Notting Hill International Book Festival, NIBFEST, kicked off on Friday the 12th of April with a conversation between Sasha Wilkins aka award winning blogger at LibertyLondonGirl, Tim Hayward award winning food writer and broadcaster and one of my favourite people Sam Baker; award winning editor and novelist. It was the inaugural event of what I hope will become a tradition because books are pretty much my favourite thing and a book festival in London is simply too good for words. I love Edinburgh book festival and all, but being a Londoner it would be nice to have a book fest on my door step.

It’s no secret, unless you are living under a rock, the world is increasingly becoming digital and very soon our lives will function at the press of just one button. We are straddling the worlds between traditional and new media, and for now, the shiny new kid, new media, is lapping up the spotlight. Traditional media will always remain relevant but the trick to mastery is striking a balance and enhancing both to work for you. Enter our panel of seasoned experts. There was a lot of savvy advice from our three panelist who brought humour as well as wisdom into a very informative and interesting evening.


On writing; “if you’re a writer, you should just be writing anyway…and why not write a blog? If you are a good enough writer you will rise…” Sasha Wilkins. For a while, traditional publishers were unable to comprehend new media and the bankability of bloggers, whilst some still struggle with this concept others have, through time and proven or unproven ventures, begun to grasp the concept and difference. Tim Hayward explains; a few years ago blogger book deals became a thing after years of being snubbed by publishers, there was a sudden influx of books published based on blogs. Fast forward a few years later, this practise ceased because it didn’t impact in book sales. Blog success does not translate into book success, its just that simple. Writing a blog and writing a book are two different things; where a blog post can be all of 300 to 600 words max (oopsie), a book is well, a book, that has to keep readers entertained, and the success of the book, no matter the genre, is solely reliant on the talent of the writer. Furthermore, analytics of a blog’s traffic comes into play, understanding the character of the blog audience and the style of said blog goes a long way into determining how successful said blogger will be as a writer. More than anything, in the words of Tim Hayward; “it is down to good writing, no matter the medium.” Popularity will not translate into success in the long run, it will always boil down to substance and talent. And good editing.

On getting an Agent; if you need an agent, get one who will understand the multiple platforms you operate on and can help you harness your skills lucratively. Sasha Wilkins turned down several big agents because it wasn’t a right fit for her at the time; it wasn’t about getting that big money deal, it was about finding an all encompassing system that would accommodate all aspects of LLG as opposed to sacrificing one for the other.

You want an agent with an open-mind, one who wants to help you grow and grow alongside you. One who doesn’t get terribly “precious” about things they’ve done and can bring in a fresh pair of eyes on areas they don’t understand. And one that’s “personable too” because personal relationships go a long way into building a lasting and successful relationship.

“If you don’t really see eye to eye with your agent you’re on a hiding to nothing.” Sam Baker. Do your research before you approach an agent; look up agents who represent your competition, go on websites and check out their interests before submitting accordingly. Follow them on social media and slowly get to know them, “not too well or you’ll annoy them.”

On Social Media; “Social Media is supposed to be a conversation not a broadcast. Hence, Social.” Sasha Wilkin.

“The old gateways have come down now,” so its easier to build relationship now than it was in the past but it is also crucial to know how to harness the art of the gentle suck up, as explained by Tim Hayward, Social Media is a really powerful networking tool so use it to your advantage but however you position yourself, whatever you put out there, make sure its honest.

“Twitter is about engagement, building relationships and authenticity.” Sam Baker. Invest time in the relationships you build and let it have substance.

Parting thoughts from the panelists;

Sasha Wilkins;

1. Think about the name of your blog. Buy your domain name asap and work out the platform you want to use.

2. “Bollocks” to the idea that you have to have a niche to be a successful blogger. Vary your subject, broaden your reach with your readers and this will enrich your content. Write about what interests you.

3. Do not put NSFW/T&A stuff out there because whatever you put o the internet lives forever. NSFW; Not Suitable For Work. T&A; Tits and Arse. If you don’t want your mother to read it, don’t write it.

(Aside; up until friday and I thought NSFW was North South Fashion Week and T&A was Terms and Agreement.)

Tim Hayward;

1. Don’t do anything if its not doing anything for your personal brand in any way or making you look great.

2. Move really fast with your idea because for every human year there are eight internet years and before you know it, “four kids in a garage have already done it somewhere else and its all over.”

3. Learn how to make traditional and new media work for you; get the exposure on new media but plan to capitalise in old media.

Sam Baker;

1. Don’t give up your day job until you’re sure where the money is coming from.

2. You’ve got to be prepared to put in a lot more than you get out of it. Social Media is time consuming with limited rewards for a long time.

3. Don’t start a blog because you want a book deal, start a blog because you want to write and then use the blog to find your voice and use Social Media to build relationships.

(Word of the day- Oleaginous; exaggerated and distastefully complimentary.)

And on that note until next NIBFEST.