Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

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Quirky Oz titles in demand at LBF 2014

This year’s London Book Fair, which wound up on 10 April, was ‘undeniably buzzy’, with international publishers ‘keen to mine Australian lists for the next Rosie Project’, reports Allen & Unwin UK director Clare Drysdale, while Booktopia CEO Tony Nash found fewer Australian retailers at this year’s fair but ‘an extremely optimistic outlook’ for book retailing in Europe.

Clare Drysdale writes:

‘The final London Book Fair (LBF) to be held at Earl’s Court was undeniably buzzy, with a palpable thrum in both the exhibition hall and upstairs in the international rights centre. If last year’s LBF was all about psychological thrillers in the vein of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, this year’s trends were a little less sweeping. While there was general agreement that there wasn’t a single “book of the fair”, it seems that international publishers are keen to mine Australian lists for the next Rosie Project, and are increasingly looking to Australian publishers and agents for similarly warm-hearted, quirky titles. This year’s winner was undeniably Perth bookseller Brooke Davis’ debut novel Lost & Found (Hachette, July 2014), described by agent Sharon Galant as “the perfect mix of commercial appeal and wonderfully imaginative writing”.  At the close of the fair there were 12 international deals in place with the promise of more to come.

‘At Allen & Unwin, rights manager Wenona Byrne observed that commercial fiction with reading group potential was in demand. Publishers from Spain and Portugal were looking for self-help titles, with offers promised for David Michie’s Mindfulness is Better than Chocolate (A&U, June 2014).

‘Text’s Michael Heyward had overwhelming interest in German novel Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango (Text, April 2015), with auctions underway in the UK, US and Canada. Other highlights of the Text list included new titles from Graeme Simsion and Helen Garner.

‘Cathy Slater of Murdoch Books noted that European customers seem to have adjusted to the new realities of their markets. She pointed to a trend for healthy food titles, with Eat Yourself Beautiful   and anything to do with raw food generating a lot of interest.

‘Sophy Williams of Black Inc. thought the fair was all about nonfiction, though many of the hot properties were spoken for thanks to a series of auctions in recent weeks. Black Inc. was thrilled to report that UK rights to Anna Krien’s Night Games have been snapped up by the Yellow Jersey imprint of Random House.

‘At Scribe, Henry Rosenbloom and recently appointed editor-at-large Philip Gwyn Jones were in an acquisitive mood, bidding successfully on several titles, including Spanish novels, a work of German nonfiction and, from the US, science journalist Nina Teicholz’s The Big Fat Surprise.

‘Fresh from Bologna, Allen & Unwin’s children’s rights director Angela Namoi reported a glut of YA titles in the UK market, with “little room for anything that does not pack a mighty punch in one way or another”. She also noted that at the sought after 9-12 reading level the emphasis was very much on finding books that are funny, with a preference for series rather than standalone titles.

Deborah Rogers, literary agent for authors including David Malouf, Peter Carey and Thomas Keneally, was a popular recipient of the London Book Fair Lifetime Achievement Award, saying “it hardly seems fair to be given an award for what has been a lifetime of such pleasure”. The pleasures of the Earl’s Court era may have drawn to a close but hopefully the current mood of optimism will travel with the rest of the industry to Olympia next year.’

Tony Nash writes:

‘There were two of us from Booktopia attending this year’s London Book Fair: my brother Simon and myself. Patricia Genat was there as a library supplier and Steve Robinson from QBD. So quite a small turnout in comparison to years past for booksellers. 

‘The complete opposite can be said about publishers and distributors. There were a ton of Aussies there. Allen & Unwin sent nine, including their team from Murdoch Books, and they of course had their UK acquisition, Atlantic Books, on show, profiling many Australian authors. New Holland had a big stand, unfortunately Fiona Schultz was back in Australia mending a broken leg but there were plenty of others hard at work. I saw key people from the Australian publishing houses on their UK counterparts’ stands, including Lou Johnson from Simon & Schuster and Jodie Mann from Thames & Hudson. Other Australians attending included Ingram Lightning Source’s new Australian content manager appointment Debbie Lee, Jane Curry from her own publishing house, Mark Zocchi from Brolga Publishing, Henry Rosenbloom from Scribe, and Stephen Ungar and his team at Hinkler Books.

‘Some of the broader takeaways from the fair were that ereaders were definitely on the decline and that ebooks were on the increase. So the concept of being more device agnostic was proving to be the flavour of the day, especially as Amazon is now promoting their Reader App that can be read on multiple devices not just the Kindle.

‘Children’s book publishing seemed to be much bigger this year than previous years, as were the quality hardcover coffee table and illustrated hardcovers. Fiction seemed to be less prominent but was still very much front and centre for the major publishers and there seemed to be fewer tiny publishers paying for their stands to promote their few titles. Maybe they believe they can do more with their money by promoting those titles online.

‘The academic and technical area was extremely well represented and was consistently a hive of activity.

‘All in all, I came away with a strong sense that those publishers that were creating physical books were very optimistic and upbeat about current and future sales and that they either had a complete catalogue in ebook format or were increasing their ebook offerings.

‘Everybody I checked in with on the last day of the fair said it was very, very good and that they had been on the go the whole time. So the word from the London Book Fair is … book retailing has an extremely optimistic outlook for the coming 12 months in Europe.’



Category: Local news