The London Book Fair is holding its first in-person show in three years Tuesday–Thursday, April 5–7. The fair was canceled abruptly in 2020, just a week before it was scheduled to start, and then offered as a virtual event in 2021. Now with industry members returning to London, fair organizers have high expectations for 2022, even if it is scaled back from the 2019 event.
The number of exhibitors registered for this year’s LBF is 860, down somewhat from the more than 1,000 registered in 2019. Of the 860, 477 are coming from 56 countries outside of the U.K. Currently, 156 exhibitors are from the U.S. In addition to stands from the U.K. and Canada, the LBF will have large pavilions for China, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Turkey. Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates, is the market focus country and will offer a robust program of literary and cultural events. The fair will also feature a special program highlighting authors from Catalonia.
Fairgoers will see numerous changes this year, not the least being a renovated Olympia London exhibition center, which has necessitated some layout changes for the fair. These include relocating the International Rights Center to the ground floor. LBF will still retain many of the features that make it distinct, such as the Literary Translation Center, which will again be sponsored by AmazonCrossing and will offer more than 20 sessions, and the Authors HQ, sponsored by Kindle Direct Publishing. The Ivy Club pop-up, which provided a private meeting space within the fair, has been replaced this year by a pop-up of the Groucho Club.
In all, organizers expect 15,000–20,000 attendees, down from the typical 25,000. Some of this is the result of lower attendance from the U.S. Americans will be required to show CDC-approved proof of vaccination and a passport to enter the fair, and masks will be required. “We have confirmed that all the biggest publishing houses—Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Hachette, and Macmillan—are participating,” says Andy Ventris, LBF director, “though they are primarily relying on staff from the U.K. offices.”
David Shelley, CEO of Hachette UK, says, “It feels very exciting to have the chance to see publishing friends from around the world at the LBF. After so long apart, it will be fascinating to compare notes, talk about the books we’re excited about and share our experiences together. I can’t wait.”
Most U.S. publishers are sending a handful of executives or foreign rights personnel. “As far as the U.S. is concerned, the strongest interest has come from the agents side,” Ventris says. He adds that all 480 tables available at the International Rights Center have sold out.
Ventris is overseeing his first fair, having taken over the role of fair director in November 2020 following the resignation of Jacks Thomas, who had been running LBF since 2013 and who now oversees the BolognaBooksPlus program of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.
LBF will also host three conferences: Introduction to Rights (on April 4), the Writer’s Summit (April 5), and the Research and Scholarly Publishing Forum (April 6).
In all, LBF will host 120 events, seminars, presentations, and panels. The fair’s Main Stage is presenting a series of panels focusing on best practices and trends in book publishing. These include “Covid-19: What’s Next for Publishing?” (April 5), with Kate Wilson, managing director of Nosy Crow; Chantal Restivo-Alessi, chief digital officer at HarperCollins; Eoin Purcell, head of Amazon Publishing UK and Germany. The changing workplace is the topic of “The Future of Work Is Hybrid” (April 5), featuring Tsedal Neeley, professor at Harvard Business School; Heather Emslie, Asia Pacific director, Google Workspace; and Lisa Waterman, head of HR for adult trade and IT, and group talent acquisition director at Hachette. The International Publishers Association is also sponsoring three sessions focused on sustainability in book publishing.
Concerning the ongoing war in Ukraine, LBF issued the following statement: “RX [LBF’s parent company] strongly condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine. RX stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, particularly with our employees around the world who have family and friends in the Ukraine. We also stand in solidarity with our Russian employees working in challenging conditions.” The organizers said that “by mutual agreement,” there will not be a Russian pavilion at the fair, and that they were in conversation with the Ukrainian Book Institute to find a way to showcase books from that country.
While some in the U.S. have expressed doubt that Reed Exhibitions, which previously ran BookExpo and BookCon, would continue to support LBF, Ventris is confident that the 2022 fair will eliminate any doubt that it’s here to stay. “The fact that we have so many big hitters heading to Olympia in April is a huge vote of confidence in the fair, and a testament to the power of meeting face-to-face to network and do business,” he notes. “While Covid restrictions have affected the travel plans of representatives from some territories, we are delighted to have such a strong international presence, and as always are thrilled to welcome first-time exhibitors from the U.K. and beyond to the fair. There is excitement building, and we can’t wait to open our doors to so many international exhibitors, agents, and visitors this April.”
Read More From our London Book Fair Preview:
London Book Fair 2022: A Cautious Return
U.S. publishers are testing the book fair waters in London.
London Book Fair 2022: Together Again
North American rights professionals are excited to see their international colleagues in person at LBF, even as pandemic uncertainty lingers.