As the new coronavirus continues to spread across the globe, it is having an effect on the publishing business. That began with the postponement of the Bologna Book Fair, and now, some American publishers, agents, and service companies are canceling plans to attend the London Book Fair, which is set to run March 10-12.
Among the Big Five houses, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan's U.S. trade division have confirmed they will not be sending U.S. employees to the fair. And Hachette Book Group, which at first said its rights team had canceled its trip, said its publishing and sales employees had decided to skip the fair.
"After much consideration, and out of concern for the health and safety of our employees, Simon & Schuster has decided it will not be attending the London Book Fair," an S&S spokesperson said in a statement. The spokesperson noted that staff who were scheduled to attend the fair "are looking at alternate means to conduct meetings with their contacts in the international publishing community."
HC said over the weekend that it had instituted a policy to limit non-essential air travel for its staff and in doing so said its U.S. employees, as well as other staff located outside of the U.K., would not be attending LBF. In addition, HC said it was canceling its pre-fair party planned for March 9, and is "currently reviewing its presence at the fair and the attendance of its U.K. teams."
One of the largest non-publisher LBF attendees, Ingram Content Group, has also said it will not be attending the event. Citing concern for Ingram's employees, Phil Olilla, Ingram's chief content officer, said the company has curtailed all travel which means the company will not be attending LBF.
Another large non-publishing company that regularly attends book conferences, OverDrive, will not be making the trip either, as the company has canceled all international travel. Amazon has also instituted a company-wide ban and Amazon Publishing announced Monday morning that it has "taken the decision to withdraw from participating in the London Book Fair 2020," adding that the Amazon London Book Fair party planned for March 11 has been canceled.
A handful of U.S. literary agencies have also decided to avoid LBF this year. Fletcher & Co. and Levine Greenberg have canceled plans to go to LBF, and several other agencies said that will make a decision about attending the fair early next week.
Publishers and agents contacted by PW were saying similar things: they were less concerned about catching the virus than they were about being quarantined during a return trip to the U.S. Publishers and agents were also saying that, as the number of cancellations from editors and agents in other countries grows, the number of meetings they have set up is being reduced.
One major publisher who is still planning to attend is Penguin Random House, although there are a few caveats. A spokesperson said PRH still plans to load up its booth next week. But, she added, the company has told all U.S. employees, as well as any other employees who need to travel internationally, "if they prefer not to travel to London, the company is fully supportive of that decision."
This story has been updated with further information.