The London bookfair is one of the essential events on the annual publishing calendar and this week publishers and agents from all over the world gathered at Earls Court which now feels like the rightful home of the fair – once, hideously, we all went to Excel at Docklands which was a disaster - to talk about books and even buy and sell. Once upon a time deals were struck right there at the table, sometimes impressive ones, but these days that’s less common and there wasn’t a lot of buzz about ‘big books’ at London this year. Plenty of chat about ‘soft years’, the recession that’s here or the one that’s about to arrive and what’s ‘tough’ as well as reports of falling co-edition sales.
Nevertheless, it was lively. Downstairs among the big publishers’ stands where power people meet and greet the aisles filled up with editors rushing to meetings and International were doing their stuff selling books for export.
Upstairs, in the international rights centre where rights folk and agents congregate, we sat all day at our tables with back to back half-hour appointments with publishers from all over the world. Mostly they make it, sometimes they get lost and either don’t come at all or turn up hours later looking bewildered or worn out or both. We talk the books up, make notes from which we will compile reports back at the office and eventually send out parcels of books with high hopes. On the subject of lost publishers, spare a thought for the American editor who went for a drink at the end of the day, then got caught up in the melee of fans arriving for the Chelsea game, couldn’t get a taxi and couldn’t work out how to get anywhere from Earls Court (and who could blame her?) and ended up in Willesden Junction instead of Notting Hill. She missed her dinner….
A book fair is also a place where you will pay £4.00 for a small packet of crisps and a cup to coffee and spend a lot of time in the queue for the loo. An ever present ingredient is gossip, who’s here and who isn’t and why and what’s going on at that company and why did that person leave and where are they going? Last but not least, ever optimistic would be authors trail around in hope of finding a publisher or an agent – ‘Oh yes, you should send that to …. Jake, Ken, Judith, Carey, Hannah, Andrew or Clare (fill in the blank). No, I’m afraid they’re not here today but you can contact them by email.’ You can only hope that some day their dreams might come true.
Rae - Rights Director