Spirits at the London Book Fair continue to ride high on the second day of fair. “The publishers who are here from the States are excited—they say it is going well and there’s lots of business happening,” said Jon Malinowski, whose firm runs the American Collective Stand, which hosts several publishers at the fair. Ingram, which is often among the largest American exhibitors, has a scaled down presence this year, but will likely expand its presence next year.

One major change at the fair was the move that relocated the Literary Agents Center from a secluded space above the show floor to a ground floor space adjacent to the exhibitors, bringing them into almost direct contact with others in the industry—eliciting some praise and some grumbles. “Entitled, is the word I would use to describe the way the agents behave at the fair,” said one publisher, who asked to remain anonymous.

Another change this year has been a ban on parties—at least officially—though some stands appear to be holding impromptu drinking sessions at their stands as the day winds down. That said, pubs surrounding the Olympia were packed cheek-to-jowl with publishers through the early evening on Tuesday.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been a focus of many conversations and panel discussions. The percentage of people wearing face masks at the fair is quite low overall. “Oh, we're definitely looking at a superspreader event,” remarked one publisher, who contracted Covid while at the Bologna Book Fair and opted to remain anonymous as well.

Covid is also affecting the types of books publishers are acquiring. "At first, the only way authors knew how to handle the pandemic was to set all their novels in 2019, but I am encouraging people to change that and write about current events, as they are," said Jenny Geras, managing director at Bookoutre, a British digital publishing company. "I'm looking forward to getting all those submissions of novels set in the pandemic," said Eoin Purcell, head of Amazon Publishing in the U.K. and Germany.

Another publisher who came down with Covid at Bologna was Kate Wilson, managing director of Nosy Crow. On a panel about post-Covid publishing, Wilson noted that fairs were important, as last year 66% of the company’s sales were outside the U.K. Several publishers described being back at a book fair as feeling like Rip Van Winkle waking from his deep sleep. That said, publishers are, generally speaking, delighted at the return of the fair.

“Given this is the first fair I’ve been to since BookExpo [America] in 2019,” I’m really impressed,” said James Macfarlane, director of Easypress Technologies. “ It has bounced back and everyone I am talking to is doing business. We are here to meet our clients and tell people that we haven’t died during pandemic.”

Ashley Gordon, publishing market development manager of Hewlett Packard, echoed Macfarlane. “It’s really busy and we’re meeting a lot of our clients for the first time in several years,” she said.

International publishers too have jumped on the opportunity. “The moment the pandemic subsided a bit, we decided to do as much as possible, including hosting editors in Helsinki and traveling to as many events abroad as we could,” said Tiia Strandén, director of the Finnish Literature Exchange. “We’re taking lots of meetings.”

As was the case at the Bologna fair last month, publishers are vocal in their support of their Ukrainian colleagues. Ukrainian author Andrei Kurkov implored publishers to stop working with Russian publishing houses as well as with authors who have publicly supported the invasion of Ukraine. “More than 500 authors and journalist signed a letter supporting Putin and 80% of the Russian population has said in surveys that they support the war,” Kurkov pointed out during an interview at the fair. “I think when it comes to Russia, they have lost the meaning of the words ‘intellectual,’ ‘artistic,’ and ‘sophisticated.’”

Self-publishers—who are looking to rebrand themselves as the “creative economy”—are also in evidence in London. Michael Anderle, director of Las Vegas–based LMBPN, wowed an audience in the Authors HQ—an area sponsored by Amazon Direct Publishing—by describing how he wrote, co-wrote, or licensed the IP for hundreds of books and sold over five million copies. “We’re now working in seven languages, and have opened an office in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates to handle our international business,” he said.

Another American self-published author, Posey Parker, attended the fair the for the first time. She traveled from Houston to find U.K. distribution for her novel Pickles and the Stolen World Cup, about the time in 1966 when the FIFA World Cup trophy was stolen and found, remarkably by a dog. “I had no idea how much there was to learn about the book business,” said Parker. “The book fair is a wonderland of literary knowledge.”