By Edward Nawotka
A version of this story originally appeared in the PW/BookBrunch London Book Fair Show Daily.
Catching publishing, agents and rights directors for comment is tricky — provided the Fair is doing its job of being a buzzy marketplace. But in a few moments of idle time, we were able to grab a handful of fairgoers for comment.
Enrique Parrilla, CEO of Lantia, a Spanish publishing conglomerate from Seville, praised the quality of the LBF’s attendees, which he said were of a “high calibre.” He also showered praise on the seminars, noting that they seem to be of a higher standard than those at competing events. “The topics flow one into the other and they are very efficient. If I wasn’t here looking for partners to expand our international distribution, I could have spent the entire day attending seminars.”
The same sentiment was echoed by Literary David Lopez-Del Amo, of the Beijing-based Sinicus literary agency, who said that when he has a chance to pull himself away from working the rights center, he has found “the conferences are all interesting — it is one of the main reasons I come.” Lopez-Del Amo deals in rights from a variety of European markets — from Spain to Poland — into China, noted that it now much easier to come to London and have meetings in and round the rights center. “I appreciate and am grateful for the open policy they have where you can show up at the Rights Center and not be interrogated, like at Frankfurt. It is more casual and makes things more pleasant.”
And it is in these casual, often serendipitous, exchanges where the best information in garnered. Ronnie Beck — acquiring fiction editor at Israeli publisher Keter Books — was making her first visit to any book fair and expressed her joy with her ability to “find so many smart people in one place” and to get a better sense of how people fight for the top tites. She was currently engaged in an auction for a new, unnamed title from Little, Brown on the topic of happiness and was excited to hear the result. Another title she expressed interest in was Daryl Gregory’s SPOONBENDERS, repped by the Gernert Company and acquired in the US by Knopf prior to the Fair. Elewhere, rumors of a Kanye West bio have been whispered — though one scout, who denied being quoted for attribution — though this would be a non-starter outside the United States.
Gallimard’s director of foreign rights, Anne-Solange Noble was seen cradling a fresh Hebrew translation of Boualem Sansal’s 2084 by gifted to her by Beck. “It’s the second translation to appear,” she said of one of the book, one of the top buzz books sold at last year’s Frankfurt Book Fair.
“It is not secret: Frankfurt is still #1 and London is definitely #2,” said Noble. “But it is also clear that there is a great deal of excitement here and there is a lot of deal making happening. Of course, as one of my colleagues has said before, in no other country is the Rights Director so important to the author as in France, because we don’t have a culture of literary agents — so here, in London, I am very busy.” Some of that attention may have come to Noble because Gallimard has not one, but two contenders vying for this year’s International Man Booker Prize, the shortlist of which is announced on Wednesday night.
Gordon Fournier, Director of International Book Publishing and Business Development for National Geographic in the United States said that though he was more or less pinned to his booth, he felt the Fair was “Busier than last year, for sure.” Adding, there is a lot of energy. It’s an efficient use of time and you can see so many partners over the year and you can send emails back and forth. I like London because with its proximity to Bologna, it allows us to be focused on our adult list since there is not as much urgency to focus on kids since we came out of Bologna.”
Nearly every meeting, he said, publishers were interested in @NatGeo, a collection of photos pulled from the company’s popular Instagram feed which has 43 million followers and has acquired 2 billion likes. “The Instagram co-founder, Kevin Systrom, is contributing a forward and that help. We have a lot of partnerships, so they get first rights to the titles. The fact the book has only 10,000 words makes it appealing for translation and we are looking at getting it published in more than 15 languages.”
Meanwhile, some publishers use the London Book Fair as an excuse to circumnavigate the world. Bipin Shah of Mapin Publishing, an Indian art book publisher traveled first to New York for a week of meetings and then to London. “London is perfectly placed in the year — six months before or after Frankfurt, depending on how you look at it!”