Some general impressions and advice
It became very crowded very quickly, so I was pleased to have arrived reasonably early. I found the people on the Information desk on the ground floor of the Grand Hall very helpful, as were the ladies in the Media Centre. Midas PR has a great team in my opinion.
I visited several strands and the people on them were very helpful. Amazon staff were helpful too, but interestingly, nobody on the stand had heard of the blog subscription service that is available through Amazon Kindle Publishing (I wrote about that in my Digital Education newsletter, in case you're interested. The link is here: February newsletter. Just scroll down a bit to find the article.) Strange!
Can a bot write your next book?
The first one I attended had the intriguing title "Books that Write Themselves: How the Rapid Rise of Artificial Intelligence Will Create a New Form of Publishing". I was looking forward to learning how I could get a bot to write my next book, leaving me time to work on the one after that! Or at least, taking some of the workload away.
In the event the seminar turned out to be more about the writing and marketing processes rather than AI. Still, it was good to hear that writers still have a central role. The idea put forward y the speaker, Guy Gadney, was that writers were needed to create the characters and the initial story, and then AI would take over and learn from that initial input.
There's an example of a game in which the other character (other than yourself, that is) is powered by AI and knows about you (through social media connections) and can answer intelligently (if I've understood the description properly). I'm looking forward to trying it out: The Suspect. The premise of the game is that you are questioning someone who is suspected of murder. It sounds intriguing, and from my brief glimpse the graphics are stunning.
Gadney did have an interesting observation about Tay, the Microsoft AI bot that went disastrously wrong, and which I'm writing about in the next issue of Digital Education. (In case you don't know about it, Tay was released on Twitter and very quickly learnt from the worst, becoming a raging everything-phobe and swearing like a trooper.) He suggested that Microsoft made two mistakes: first, not employing enough writers to establish Tay's moral code and behaviour parameters, and (b) switching on its learning capacity too soon.
The Independent Author's Journey
This was a panel discussion between three well-established self-published authors. I can't say much as I came along at the tail end of it, except to say that their success was very inspiring. I'm hoping to attend the seminar properly when it runs again tomorrow and the day after (it's billed as "Publishing with Amazon").
Panel: A Day in the Life of the Small Presses
This was very disappointing indeed. After nearly 15 minutes past the scheduled start time there was neither any indication of whether or not anything was about to happen, nor any announcement or apology. Given that there are myriad alternative activities to choose from, this displayed an appalling lack of respect to the people who had bothererd to turn up. It's especially galling that I'd already had my badge scanned, and so their statistics will indicate at least one more attendee than there really was. I left, and quite frankly I suggest that if this session is running again, don't bother to attend.
Making books trend
In marked contrast to the small presses talk, this one started bang on time. Each panellist was very good, but the room (The Olympia Room) was absolutely packed.
- It's worth studying the floor plans beforehand, although not all the rooms seem to be marked on them. However, the Information booth staff are very good, as I said.
- There are some very nice bags available!
- Wear comfortable shoes!