Matera Women's Fiction FestivalWow, another amazing year in southern Italy at the annual Matera Women’s Fiction Festival.

I have been going for the past few years, and I always enjoy this yearly pilgrimage to this beautiful Italian cave town, and the chance to learn about trends in publishing and writing, to attend writing workshops and one-on-one sessions with agents, authors, publishing experts and social media gurus.

Matera, ItalyAs always, I love seeing familiar faces and meeting writers attending for the first time. There’s an amazing sense of cameraderie at this fiction festival – and I’m always anxious to see my ‘Matera buddies’ when  I’m here each September.

This year, we learned lots about the changing role of agents, and for both traditional and indie-published authors, how important it is to be proactive about marketing and promoting your books.

Even if I’m not a thriller writer, I enjoyed the interesting sessions of ‘Thriller University’ – learning lots about how that market is evolving, and the rapidly-growing market of psychological thrillers, or the so-called marriage thrillers. Lots of great tips and advice to be applied by writers of any genre, too.

We learned that digital sales are flattening in the US and UK markets, while in the French and Italian markets, they never ‘took off’ at all. Digital sales for Italy and France hover somewhere around a paltry 6%.

And, of course, outside the official sessions there were lots of great conversations about writing and books with fellow writers, wanders around the pretty cave town and, as always, lots of delicious food and wine to accompany thos great conversations. It’s always hard to pack up and leave.

This year was particularly bittersweet, since local funding has not come through for the festival and next year’s edition is not certain.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed, because I count on my annual dose of Matera, and all the lively conversations with all the impressive women – and men, too – who flock there each year.