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Upbeat 2017 London Book Fair

13 March 2017

A generally buoyant picture has emerged from the London Book Fair, which showed an international publishing business in relatively good shape and double-digit growth in the all-important number of pre-registered visitors to the Fair. The mood of optimism was stoked by the low pound and several new developments. The international book world flocked to London to the second most important global fair after Frankfurt to talk to other publishers and to do deals on upcoming books. Authors were also catered for with a wide range of seminars but did not grasp the LBF headlines in the same way.

The Bookseller reported that Hachette-owned 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."

Anthony Forbes Watson (Pan MacmillanOne of largest fiction and non-fiction book publishers in UK; includes imprints of Pan, Picador and Macmillan Children’s Books, another UK publisher) said that flatlining digital was stoking print demand. "The mix shift towards print is pushing up prices on new stuff." And there was a Brexit bonus: "The industry is feeding off the chaos in the world outside, rather than being depressed by it." It was a trend confirmed by Duncan Heath at Icon Books: "Books are a solid thing in a changing world."

There are other reasons why this Book Fair has delivered so much good cheer. An unprecedented wave of new-media players descended on it, triggering a "dramatic explosion" in often high value book-to-film/TV and audio deals. More big players in the field have made the market for film and tv rights more competitive, and books are being used increasingly as the basis for ambitious new filming plans.

LBA Books m.d. Luigi Bonomi, who recently became the agent for BBC Radio, said he had seen more film and TV interest in the past six months than at any other time since founding his agency, referring to the "massive" amount of options he had done in the run-up to LBF.

Bonomi added: "A good third of all my meetings at this year's fair are with film and TV companies to talk about plots and ideas and what people are developing from very early on-sometimes before I've even sold the book to the publisher."

In the Quantum conference just before the Fair Steve Bohme, research director at Nielsen Book Research UK, ran down Nielsen's just-released 2016 book industry stats, which showed British print book purchases on the rise for the second year in a row.

"In 2016, consumers turned up their printed book purchases by around 4%," Bohme told attendees. "And with higher prices boosting spending, we saw spending on printed books by UK consumers up by 7%."... "It's refreshing to see how books generally, and print books in particular, are still appealing to younger consumers, both male and female, despite so many other forms of entertainment and information competing for their attention."

It's good to be able to report so much optimism at the Fair, which will affect all authors, whether traditionally published or indie, with its upbeat picture of an international publishing business in reasonable shape.

For more detail on Quantum and its interesting figures At London Book Fair's Quantum Conference: Stakes and Statistics