Over the last ten years, the publishing industry has experienced vast disruption due to the rise of self-publishing, eBooks and social media. What they haven’t experienced yet is the disruption of a self-published author rocking up to their industry trade fair in full glamazon showgirl costume – Until now.
The first day I sent out the draft manuscript of my book, Diary of a Shanghai Showgirl, to London agents, I received instant interest and signed with a top agent within the week. I thought that was it, I’d made it. My story of taking on the Communists and beating the odds to open China’s first burlesque nightclub, enjoying massive success, and then being dramatically thrown out of the country with 36 hours notice, bank accounts frozen, etc., - would finally be sold in bookstores.
That was 3 years ago. In those three years I’ve had agents, managers, media agents, eBook publishers, a promised nine book deal across three genres with Pearson publishing (before they laid off 3,000 of their top level employees, including the guys I was dealing with). I found myself at the end of 2014 still waiting. Waiting to conclude this chapter of my life so I could finally move on. I was dying to be able to answer the inevitable ‘what happened’ question with a smile and, ‘well, you have to read the book.’
So at the start of 2015 I let everyone go and decided that I would do it myself. The same spirit that told me at the age of 23 to take a risk and move to China, told me that I couldn’t wait around any longer for someone else to decide my destiny, that’s not the kind of person I am. Also, having played the game, courting the established industry for so long, it became clear to me that the publishing world has gone into a state of flux, so disrupted by recent innovations that no one is sure they know what they’re doing anymore, or what the future holds. I think by now, smart industry professionals understand that they too must innovate in order to remain relevant in the years to come. And that’s why I think that, while it’s a daring, innovative strategy to just show up and put myself out there, I’ll fit in just fine next weekend at the fair. I hope to be amongst at least some like-minded people who are open and excited by the new possibilities the future of this industry holds. After all, disruption, innovation and change are nothing if not opportunities, as long as you are flexible enough to adapt. I’m interested in where this industry is going and the people who are taking it there, and how I can be a part of it. I’m interested in building relationships with leaders, innovators and pioneers in publishing, distribution, and media rights. I’m willing to risk being laughed at by a few, to be seen by those who understand that the old rules no longer apply.
So next weekend, October 17th and 18th, I’ll be at the Frankfurt Book Fair seeking out others who are disrupting the industry, paving their own roads, and actively participating in this evolution. If this is you, please be sure to say ‘Hi’ – I’ll be the showgirl with a big smile on my face, disrupting everything.