Publishers and agents have noted an “upbeat” mood at this year’s fair, with many saying that the publishing industry can play an important role in helping people to navigate through or escape from the prevailing turbulent political climate.
In the first London Book Fair since the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s election, many fair-goers said politics was a hot topic during discussions, with more politically themed books seeping through into submissions. However, others reported quieter trade than usual, with no single big book being chased by multiple houses, a possible consequence of the fair running a month earlier than usual.
Publishers have been looking to foreign fiction, such as Swedish psychological thriller In the Mire by Susanne Jansson (see p05), pre-empted in multiple territories and on auction in the UK as The Bookseller Daily went to press. Meanwhile, with the value of the pound down, UK publishers with hot properties are finding US and European publishers are more eager than usual to acquire them, owing to the improved exchange rate.
Little, Brown and Orion c.e.o. David Shelley said: “The mood of the fair is very positive. It feels as though there are a good number of rights deals happening, and although there is anxiety about the political situation in various parts of the world, there is also a desire for books that help explain the world we currently live in and the trends that we are seeing across the globe.”
His thoughts were echoed by Canongate c.e.o. Jamie Byng, who added: “The mood feels upbeat, with publishers positive about the world of books—even if the world seems troubled and the planet’s future uncertain.”
Books with politics as a theme have been popular, said PFD agent Alexandra Cliff. “There seems to a very political mood this year, unsurprisingly, and there’s an appetite from editors for books that tap into that,” she said. However, she found it “interesting” that there had not been “that one big thriller or psychological suspense novel that everyone is talking about”.
Kate Mills, publisher at HarperCollins imprint HQ, said editors had largely been looking further afield, to foreign titles. In terms of content, “everyone is just looking for something that makes them feel better, that makes them feel good and as though they are in charge of their own lives”, she said.