Optimistic mood at Olympia

Neill Denny
News - Publishing Thursday, 16 March 2017

Busy aisles, and advances getting 'out of control'

A mood of optimism has gripped the London Book Fair, driven by surging visitor numbers and a weaker pound.

Publishers and agents reported brisk business, while the fair felt busier than last year. Jacks Thomas, director of LBF, confirmed that the important lead indicator of pre-registered visitors was up by a double-digit percentage on 2016.

Caroline Michel, ceo of PFD, said that on day one of the fair she had received two firm offers for books: "Publishers are being much less cautious this year… the digital market is starting to really work in Europe, and the Americans have money to spend."

Bloomsbury's Nigel Newton said the publisher was "on a roll"; Head of Zeus' Amanda Ridout said the fair was "buzzier, and it feels like there are more people here"; Jane Harris at Bonnier said: "Our stand was rammed yesterday and it is again today."

Will Atkinson (Atlantic Books) said: "It seems busier than last year. I think it's a case of hands across the ocean, there are bad things happening on both sides - it's a group hug." But advances, he added, were "out of control".

Anthony Forbes Watson (Pan Macmillan) said that flatlining digital was stoking print demand. "The mix shift towards print is pushing up prices on new stuff." And there was a Brexit bonus: "The industry is feeding off the chaos in the world outside, rather than being depressed by it." It was a trend confirmed by Duncan Heath at Icon Books: "Books are a solid thing in a changing world."

Luigi Bonomi at LBA described the fair as "very buzzy, with a lot of money around", and he was seeing heightened demand for escapist and uplifting fiction and non-fiction. Michel said book to film and TV was booming.

Lei Ren of China National Publications Import and Export Corporation, Germany, said: "As a first-timer, I like it. The natural light and the layout make it feel busy."

At the Museum of Modern Art, Charles Kim said: "The fair has been our busiest in three or four years, thanks in large part to great interest internationally for our children's book line. The Centre Pompidou and we negotiated a multi-book deal to develop activity and picture books together."

Photo: the LBF Rights Centre

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