Balance of conversations and trends

Publishers waited three years to meet again at the London Book Fair, and the level of enthusiasm for an almost normal book fair was high among attendees. On opening day, queues formed outside the venue for the mandatory Covid vaccination checks, and throughout the event the crowd, mostly without masks, had to find a way to navigate the new layout, as the fair was held at the Olympia, which is still undergoing renovations. living room. While the presence of major US publishers was largely limited to small UK groups or employees, UK publishers packed the room and numerous international stands, from the United Arab Emirates to Indonesia and Turkey, took even more prominent positions.

Although the fair had not released official attendance figures at the time of publication, attendance was notably lower than in previous years, especially among the general public, and some key venues, such as the Literary Translation Center and the headquarters of Authors, had been noticeably reduced. That said, the International Law Center, which has moved to a new location adjacent to the ground floor, was packed and much busier than the LitAg in Frankfurt in October.

Ian Millar, managing director of Canelo, a UK-based publisher that focuses on commercial fiction, said his show was packed with back-to-back meetings. “We’ve had several good years,” Millar said, “and there’s been a huge appetite for our books.” Canelo, which publishes 300 titles a year, about half of which are reprints, has partnered with Printers Row and will launch in the US later this month. As for trends, Millar has seen increased interest in mysteries and multi-character thrillers, as well as books for people who have outgrown young adult fiction. “I don’t know what that genre should be called, but ‘new adult’ makes me uncomfortable,” Millar said.

One of the main topics addressed by the fair was the future of publishing after Covid-19. There was agreement that editors and managers will need to standardize their hybrid working practices. Everyone will have to get better at communication, Tsedal Neeley, a Harvard Business School professor, said during a session on the hybrid workplace. “Older managers will have to get used to using technology, including technology they are not used to such as newer forms of social media, while younger workers will have to get used to coming into the office a couple of times a day. week.”

Covid is also affecting the types of books publishers are acquiring. “In the beginning, the only way authors knew how to handle the pandemic was to set all of their novels in 2019, but I encourage people to change that and write about current events, as they are,” said Jenny Geras, CEO of Bookoutre. , a British digital publisher.

“I look forward to getting all those novel submissions set in the pandemic,” said Eoin Purcell, head of Amazon Publishing in the UK and Germany.

The fair saw a number of key deals with renowned authors, including Quercus acquiring the English rights for the next three installments in Stieg Larsson’s Dragon Tattoo series, this time written by Swedish author Karin Smirnoff, and Canongate acquired nobody’s sonan account of the Trojan War by Yann Martel, the Booker Prize-winning author of The life of Pi.

The war in Ukraine was a topic of discussion during the fair, with author Andrey Kurkov, president of Ukrainian PEN, traveling from his home on the Slovak border to implore publishers to stay vigilant and stop working with Russian publishers. . Representatives from several Baltic countries were offering similar advice. Reed Exhibitions, the organizers of the event, banned state-sponsored Russian publishers from participating in the book fair, but questions have been raised as to why none of the world’s largest publishing groups has made any statement that it would stop working with Russia. There were even reports that some sub-rights agencies were still selling rights on behalf of big publishers for best-selling authors in Russia.

However, the general feeling was that it was good to be together to exchange views and news. London Book Fair Director Andy Ventris said: “It’s been fantastic to see the global publishing industry come together in person at the London Book Fair over the last three days, reconnect and do business.”

A version of this article appeared in the 04/11/2022 issue of weekly editors under the title: The London Book Fair returns

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