LBF 2017: A personal view

Neill Denny
Opinion - Publishing Friday, 17 March 2017

A few observations on London Book Fair 2017


- The weather helped. It sounds obvious, but true: the sun was shining and people were in an optimistic mood, the Americans in particular happy to escape an ice-storm in New York. At times, with the sun shining through the great glass roof, it felt almost tropical in London.

- People had more money, or certainly thought they did. A 15% depreciation of the pound against the dollar and the Euro made everything that little bit cheaper, from a cup of coffee to the hottest debut. Also, the bouyant UK print market gave an added confidence.

- Brexit was everywhere and nowhere. I didn't hear anyone saying they had lost a deal or a visitor because of it, yet it was the backdrop to every conversation and the subtext to many an announcement. The debate on the subject was packed, with everyone in the room against it; at times one wonders if publishing has slipped into a comfortable groupthink, and is only publishing for the 48%...

- No-one complained about Olympia. Well, not to me anyway and they don't normally hold back. I think it's the third year since returning and everyone has found the secret staircases from the IRC and down from the galleries. They have also found the Tesco across the road for cheap lunches.

- People started complaining about advances. A sure sign of a market in robust growth, publishers started complaining advances were getting too rich. Which actually means those complaining arn't rich enough.

- A lot of young editors and imprints had cash to flash. There was a slight feeling that a generation of older editors has left the scene, and their replacements were much freer with the money.

- The IRC was like a rush-hour station at times. A windowless space where I wouldn't want to spend three days on the trot without a pause, but Caroline Michel put me to shame.

- The rest of the Fair was equally busy. Jacks Thomas told me - and she firmly said that this was only an indication and not an officially audited figure - that pre-registered vistor numbers were up by a double-digit percentage ahead of LBF. It certainly felt at times that there were at least ten per cent more people than last year.

- The Club at the Ivy wasn't quite the high-roller escape pod it was last year, it seemed to have been block-booked by tech companies with only Luigi Bonomi flying the flag for publishing. A shame.

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