Monday, April 20, 2009

All the Fun of the (Book) Fair

Good news! Christmas looks to be far more interesting this year!

The London Book Fair is the biggest annual trade fair for publishers and buyers and fills both exhibition spaces at Earls Court and Earls Court 2. It's a massive event ... and last year it was a massive disappointment. Everywhere I went, every stand I visited, it was all celebrity, celebrity, celebrity. If it wasn't Jade Goody or Katie Price, it was some B list reality TV diva, overpaid football star or TV chef. You couldn't stuff a fag paper between the famous names on the bookshelves last Christmas.
But they didn't sell. With some notable exceptions, the celebrity stuff bombed. And quite rightly so. Some ghost-written biography of someone who's achieved instant fame at 17 is hardly going to be gripping reading is it? Though I hate to admit to spitefulness, I was very happy to see these books fail. I spent a long time getting my book written ... yet it got pushed to the back of the displays in most bookshops. But who's laughing now, eh? Despite everything I still sold a goodly number of hardbacks and that's why the paperback is coming out in September.
But things were better this year. So much better. Yes, there were some celebrity books but nowhere near as many. What really shone at the fair was optimism. Books were bigand colourful and fun. Lots of great kids books. Lots of fantasy and sci-fi. Lots and lots of high quality photo books. The message to the book buyer this Autumn is a positive 'Cheer up matey!'
Some great new titles on show. German company Taschen had some extraordinary stuff including a very rude photo journal by Naomi Harris around America's swinging community called America Swings. If you're a notebook whore like me, Moleskine are releasing A4 and A3 sized sketchpads - the paper is beautiful.
My own publisher Pan Macmillan is repackaging Alex Boese's brilliant Hippo eats Dwarf - a guide to hoaxes and urban myths. John Lloyd and John Mitchinson will be releasing the QI Book of the Dead with Faber. And Dave Spikey has a book coming out with Michael O'Mara that looks at the best and worst of local newspaper reporting: He took my kidney then broke my heart. Most intriguing (and also by Michael O'Mara) is a book called Letters from the trenches, a collection of private letters sent from the front by a Private Harry Lamin. Very poignant and moving.
I am a much happier bunny than I was last year.


punk in writing said...

Oooh... Taschen and Moleskine always have good stuff.

chris hale said...

I love Moleskine notebooks. They are so damnably neat and perfect that it's hard to actually start using them!

Winifred said...

This celebrity stuff is total rubbish.

It caused me to open my big gob at work and put my foot in it when David Beckham's book was published. I ranted "What the heck has he done other than play football and he's only about twelve? Who on earth wastes their money on this junk?" My website editor said rather sheepishly that he had bought it. I had to say to him that I thought he had better taste. Ooops!!!

Hope your book continues to sell well. Some people obviously have good taste!

Stevyn Colgan said...

Punky and Chris - I too am a Moleskine addict and have a number of notebooks and pads. They had a display of used books there by famous and some not so famous writers and artists and they were amazing. Worthy of publication themselves. Meanwhile, Taschen continues to produce stunning visual books on every subject imaginable. In fact, it seems to me that the German publishing houses dominate the large format colour coffee table book market. There were some absolutely amazing samples.

Winifred - Oops. Yes, I do things like that all the time (But you were right).