A shock announcement that Faber editor Lee Brackstone will leave the indie after nearly 25 years to run a new, as yet unnamed, music-centric imprint at Orion came as London Book Fair reached its final day.
Brackstone will focus "on creative commissioning of the type of titles on which he has built such a stellar reputation," Orion told The Bookseller. He will also acquire some fiction for Weidenfeld & Nicolson, reporting to Orion m.d. Katie Espiner. He will leave Faber in three months’ time.
Brackstone joined Faber 23 years ago as an editorial assistant following a stint at Jonathan Cape. He oversees the music-themed Faber Social division and works on some fiction titles. He said: "I am hugely grateful, first to [the late former m.d. and chairman of Faber] Matthew Evans and then to [c.e.o.] Stephen Page for giving me the latitude and resources to publish literary fiction and dozens of magnificent music books at Faber Social."
He added: "The chance to set up my own imprint, with an inspiring and ambitious team under Katie Espiner, feels overwhelmingly positive. Moving from Faber feels like leaving home—sometimes I happily imagined I would work there forever, like a less Welsh and less handsome Ryan Giggs at Manchester United. But it turns
out I am not a one-club man." Espiner said Brackstone’s "taste is outstanding, and his passion, publishing vision and ferocious dedication to seeking out the brightest and best talent is second to none".
Faber publisher Alex Bowler said: "After 23 years of extraordinary creativity and success, we’re very sad that Lee will be leaving. His contribution to [Faber] has been immense, establishing, in Faber Social, a publishing line that is and will remain central to our DNA."
Meanwhile, many industry figures were upbeat about LBF 2019. Robert Caskie, of Caskie Mushens said: "It is very buoyant, people are keen to talk and are very interested in our books. It’s been one of the best fairs for us. There’s not been one particular trend and people have been very open-minded."
Kathleen Farrar, group sales and marketing director at Bloomsbury, agreed. "It’s one of the best fairs we’ve had," she said. "It’s been really, really busy—our stand has been packed and you can hardly get a seat."
However, some were aggrieved by the fair running earlier in the year. David Headley, m.d. of the DHH Literary Agency, said: "It’s not been as busy as Frankfurt. I think it needs to go back to where it was, in April. It seems too close to Frankfurt. Everyone is stressed about submissions, because there are just so many. It’s been really difficult to prepare."
Kevin Duffy, founder of Bluemoose Books, believes there has been greater interest in the indies this year. "There are more people talking about buying rights from the small independents this year," he said. "These corporates are now coming to us directly."
Booksellers Association m.d. Meryl Halls said: “The BA has had a great Fair. We put on two days of education programming for booksellers and there’s been a real buzz about our high street theatre area. Despite the bonkers Brexit backdrop booksellers are sounding noticeably confident about their place in the world. They’re buoyed by their relatively strong Christmas and they get a huge amount out of gathering together at LBF. It’s hackneyed but true that the networking booksellers do here can give them a single significant idea that affects their whole year for the good.”