One seven-figure buy and a deluge of six-figure deals after heated auctions have launched the London Book Fair with a bang. Publishers are also continuing to invest in digital experiments despite e-book growth slowing, with a tranche of innovations from companies such as Penguin Random House (PRH), Google and Orion on display at LBF.
“Strong” six-figure deals include Balli Kaur Jaswal’s Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows to HarperCollins, Sphere’s pre-empt of love story Happiness for Humans by P Z Reizi, since optioned for film, and a six-figure pre-empt from Hutchinson for Tara Westover’s memoir Educated. A trilogy by Chloé Esposito has been pre-empted by Michael Joseph for a seven-figure sum.
Editors have agreed that 2016’s fair has opened in higher spirits than in previous years, inspired by the recent growth in print book sales. “It feels very lively - more than last year,” said Orion Fiction publishing director Kate Mills.
“It feels like people are keen to spend money again. This year feels pretty punchy.” Bluebird publisher Carole Tonkinson said: “It feels like a really buoyant time. I think people are optimistic. The print market is up and in my area [health/wellbeing] we are seeing huge interest.”
Yet some have cautioned spending is becoming more polarised as publishers continue to bargain hard, particularly in deals where competition is less intense. Sam Eades, senior commissioning editor at Trapeze, said: “We’re all trying to make statement acquisitions [but] it’s quite skewed. There’s a lot of money for the big, hot books: other acquisitions are a bit more prudent. We’re seeing less in that middle area. That’s the way the market is at the moment.”
E-book sales growth may be flattening but publishers are out in force to showcase their digital wares at this year’s LBF.
Orion’s serialised storytelling app “Belgravia”, featuring content by “Downton Abbey” creator Julian Fellowes, goes live on Wednesday (13th April). Also launching at LBF is Beyond the Book, a digital marketing resource for hosting book events (both real-life and virtual) from Agent Fox Media.
Meanwhile, PRH UK, in partnership with Google’s Editions at Play and record label Lex, has launched its sci-fi world Strata, “a book about the future, made for the future”. The digital storytelling experience includes music from audiovisual duo I Speak Machine and writing from authors including Misha Glenny, Laurie Penny and Maggie Koerth-Baker. Dan Franklin, digital publisher at PRH UK, said: “We shouldn’t shy away from pushing forward at that bleeding edge...because what publishing does well is innovate.”