I've never been to this mammoth exhibition of books and everything to do with them. But, as the Earls Court Exhibition Centre is only down the road and costs are quite reasonable at £30 for a 3 day ticket I thought I'd give it a try.
It was EXTRA-ORD-INARY!!! Truly, I've never seen an exhibition so massive, I got lost just looking for the loos. It's incredibly high tech and a free app downloaded to my phone (get me, all technological) gave me floor plans, lists of exhibitors, timings, the whole kit and caboodle. I needed it because without it the whole thing would have been difficult to navigate. Getting lost was all to the good because I stumbled over things I might not have aimed for. Trying hard to avoid such fripperies as jewel encrusted pens (just beautiful) and super wibbly-wobbly postcards with pictures which change as you walk past them I finally ended up at the stand of Andrews UK.
It's difficult to categorise them apart from to say that they are distributors, but so much more than that. For they will take an author's book and format it for any electronic reading device on earth. In fact they said if someone found one they didn't know about they would put their technical boffin hats on and jolly well work out how to format a manuscript so that it would be downloadable onto it. That could be particularly useful if you want to sell in as many countries to as many devices as possible. As I spoke to people at the Fair who had come from places as far flung as Nigeria and Haiti that could be a distinct advantage as I guess different devices sell more or less strongly in different localities.
I along with many others have pondered the great debate as an author of whether to publish oneself or not. What I do know is that it is very time-consuming if you are non-technical to put your books up there, find a cover, present a finished product that is pretty near perfect given all the glitches that can creep in. They do not do a full editorial process although they do a bit of copy-editing if they see obvious spelling eg mistakes. If you go with them, of course they require their cut and you as the author do not get 100% of the revenue but to my mind it would be worth it rather than having to do the technicals myself. Many established publishing houses use Andrews so often you will have downloaded one of 'their' books without knowing it.
It's a strange new world, that of the e-book and to paraphrase Shakespeare and Huxley a brave new world - at least you have to be brave nowadays to function in it. Still, I think with outfits like AUK, things can be a little easier for authors who want to get their e-books out there.....