LBF 2016 by Sara-Jade Virtue
For those of you that engage in the thrilling world of social and follow/are friends IRL with publishing chaps, you will have seen that many of our timelines last week were chock-a-block with ever more exciting updates from the industry annual trade show, the London Book Fair. You will have seen the tote de jour from new Little, Brown imprint Fleet, the scandal of £2.35 for a teeny tiny bottle of water from Soggy Sandwiches Are Us, Shoe of the Show Award being won (as ever) by Suzie Doore, news of Author of the Day Marian Keyes being as wonderful and funny as ever despite being stuck in the greenhouse that is Olympia on the hottest day of the year so far, a pirate, a dinosaur, back ache, blisters, bruised battered and bewildered booksellers having to ‘get inside the map’ and everything in between. But some of you may be wondering exactly what LBF actually, you know, is. Who goes, what do they do, can I come?
Bar last year, when I cunningly bunked off for a week in Lyme Regis, I’ve been attending LBF for 15 years. The first 6 from a bookseller perspective – walking the aisles like an excitable puppy, getting a first glance at the books due to be published 6/9 sometimes 12 months in the future, and the last 9 years from a publishing perspective – meeting with my customers from all over the UK to start the sometimes long, sometimes mercifully short process of actually selling them the books publishing in the next 6/9 sometimes 12 months. But that’s less than half the story. Because upstairs, away from the hoi polloi, agents are doing multi-million pound deals. Editors are buying books that sometimes haven’t even been written yet. Deals are being brokered between authors, agents, publishers and retailers from all over the world. Rights teams are selling…. well, rights. International teams of suited and booted Book Folk are screaming buy buy, sell sell in a frenzy of polite, professional and reserved meetings, coffee breaks, emails and dinners – and it’s hilarious and hideous in equal measure. Exhausting and exciting. Frantic but fabulous.
But what I can also tell you is this. There are lots of very private meetings in very public spaces. There is a seriously unhygienic amount of air kissing. Everyone you cross paths with will make badge name check contact, before they make eye contact. Pizza Express does a roaring trade in their twice-the-price-for-half-the-portion gluten free range. Most people survive on a healthy diet of booze and sweets stolen from competitor’s stands for 3 days. Everyone comes down with LBF Lurgy. There is a branch of The Club at The Ivy at the Fair where the biggest industry movers and shakers take a booth for the duration of the fair for a squillion pounds a day to hold all their top level meetings. It takes at least 10 days to prepare beforehand for the 17 back to back meetings you have on each of the 3 days, and easily another 10 days after the fair to do all the follow up needed to make sure those meetings were worth having. No-one factors in enough comfort breaks into their schedule so the queues for the ladies toilets are constantly populated by women doing the Desperate Despair Dance of Shame, and wondering whether the Tesco over the road stocks Tena Lady.
But more importantly, there is an excellent programme of Insight seminar sessions, where the great and the good of this bizarre industry share their knowledge, their ideas, their bad jokes. There are conferences galore, with key note speakers presenting real nuts and bolts facts and figures and there is even now an Author HQ – where you can learn pretty much everything you’ll ever need to know to succeed as a writer in today’s changing and challenging landscape from established writers, editors, agents and publishers.
So listen, if you want to immerse yourself in the Publishing world for a day – take a trip to our version of Disneyland if you will – the dates for 2017 are 14th – 16th March, book yourself a ticket to Olympia http://www.londonbookfair.co.uk/ and you can see for yourself what all the fuss is about. And why we’re obsessed with books….