In this guest blog post we hear from Damien, founder of Indie Novella, one of the Network’s presses, who is working with Islington Libraries to create The Alternative London Book Fair, with a focus on indie presses.

The Alternative London Book Fair will be an inaugural week of publishing and author events coinciding with the end of London Book Fair, aiming to bring the world of publishing and literature to a wider audience, especially aspiring authors, emerging writers and readers. Taking place in Islington, north London, at the grand, newly refurbished Islington Central Library, the Alternative London Book Fair is part of an initiative developed by Islington Libraries and the Indie Novella Diversity in Publishing Partnership, which seeks to make publishing more accessible to new writers, especially those from diverse and working-class backgrounds, by removing the barriers to publishing – in particular the knowledge and the cost barriers.

As such, the Alternative London Book Fair is a week of completely free events and exhibitions designed to connect big-name and exciting authors with readers and new audiences and to encourage more people from a wide range of backgrounds to take up writing and tell their stories. Each author and panellist has offered their time for free as part of the commitment to reach wider audiences and promote writing at a grassroots level.

With the annual London Book Fair taking place earlier in the week being one of the biggest events of the global publishing calendar, where the biggest names in publishing to London to make deals and define future creative content, we want to complement this exposure and allow readers and writers to come together to experience and celebrate what it means to be part of one of the most vibrant literary scenes on the planet.

The event is being run and supported by Islington Libraries, who run a multitude of author events and workshops promoting reading and literature across one of the most socioeconomically diverse boroughs in London, and the Indie Novella Diversity in Publishing Partnership, founded in 2023 by small press Indie Novella to bring together an unprecedented range of stakeholders across the publishing community with the aim of enabling the publishing industry to better include underrepresented authors and writers from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds in publishing. Key partners include the Watson, Little Literary Agency, who have a long history of representing some of the world’s leading and most exciting novelists, children’s authors, historians, illustrators and specialist writers, including confirmed speakers Ajay Chowdhury and Rose Diell.

Publishers from the Network are invited to take part – please contact Damien at Indie Novella for more information.

For more information please see the Alternative London Book Fair website.

The Programme

Wednesday 13th March
Opening event and A Conversation with Award Winning Crime Writer Ajay Chowdhury. Author of the Kamil Rahman series, his first book – The Waiter – was published in 2021, and was named the Sunday Times crime book of the month and is currently in TV development with Moonage Pictures. His latest novels, The Detective, is out in paperback on the 18th of January 2024 and his  new hardback The Spy is out on the 4th of April 2024, published by Penguin. Ajay will be talking about his career today, including all things crime writing and how we can inspire more writers to take up the genre.

Thursday 14th March
Celebrating International Women’s Day – Female Authors Writing on Womanhood
Panelists include Rose Diell, whose debut novel Fledging, which is out in 2024 with Renard Press, centres on a woman’s decision to have children. The event will be run by Emily Rhodes, an experienced facilitator who has run events for Daunt books and Ink@84 Bookshop. She also runs The Walking Bookclub, and has recently set up Bookbanks, a new charity providing books and a space to promote reading and literature at foodbanks.

Friday 15th March
Author Event for Schools
Islington Libraries are arranging an author event at the library which promotes writing among school children.

Saturday 16th March
Independent Press Day
A series of events and exhibitions by independent presses and their wonderful authors. There will be three events in the Gallery Room, plus artwork and book posters in the Gallery itself.

11 a.m.
Graphic Novelist Sarah Airriess
 on the Making of The Worst Journey in the World, a graphic novel.

1 p.m.
Debut Authors Panel – three debut authors from indie presses talking about what it’s been like to have a debut and giving advice to aspiring authors.

3 p.m.
Publishing Panel with independent publishers
Currently confirmed is Will Dady from Renard Press, who will also speak about the Indie Press Network. This panel will give authors a more direct insight into publishing and what it is like to work with a publisher.