The London Book Fair returns Tuesday–Thursday, April 18–20, at the Olympia in Kensington. It remains the signature event for publishing professionals focused on the global English-language rights trade. This year’s show promises a packed International Rights Center, which has been moved to the ground floor of the convention hall, adjacent to the publisher and exhibitor booths, to make travel between meetings faster.
“All of the 500 tables at the International Rights Center have been booked,” says Gareth Rapley, LBF director. Rapley inherited an event that could use a boost. In 2020, show organizer Reed Exhibitions canceled LBF just days before if was set to open due to the pandemic. The fair was held virtually in 2021, and though it returned in person in 2022, attendance dropped from the typical 25,000 to just 15,000.
Pandemic-related concerns may have subsided, but challenges remain. Inflation has forced the fair to raise prices, which has put off some exhibitors and forced others to scale back. Nevertheless, Rapley is optimistic. “We anticipate a 30% increase in attendance over 2022,” he says. “While this isn’t back to the same number we saw in 2019, it does reflect the return of a significant number of international attendees, including Americans.”
This year’s LBF will offer a robust professional program of seminars and talks. Brian Murray, CEO of HarperCollins, will open programming on the main stage on Tuesday. His talk, titled “Shaping the Business and the Art of the Book Industry,” will discuss recent changes in publishing. This will be followed by a series of panel discussions covering global prospects for the industry, the cost-of-living crisis and inflation, challenges to global copyright, book-to-screen adaptations, sustainability, attracting the next generation of professionals, the evolution of indie publishing, and more. Other keynote speakers include London mayor Sadiq Khan and bestselling author Kate Mosse.
Other events include a half-day Introduction to Rights program, for those new to selling rights, on April 17; the Writer’s Summit, offering best practices for aspiring authors, on April 19; and the Research and Scholarly Publishing Forum, on April 20. Novelist Colson Whitehead, crime writer Anne Cleaves, and children’s book author Robin Stephens will each be featured as Author of the Day during the fair.
LBF will offer several venues for further panels and networking, including the Literary Translation Center, Author HQ, and English PEN Literary Salon. While there is no longer a conference at the fair dedicated to technology, the Tech Hub will feature talks on hot topics of the year, including TikTok and AI.
A new Sustainability Hub will focus on how publishers are working to streamline production to minimize their impact on the environment. To support this effort, the annual LBF Excellence Awards includes a new prize for sustainability. In addition, the announcement of the shortlist for the International Booker Prize will take place on site at fair on Tuesday.
LBF has no single Market Focus country this year, as it’s had in previous years, but a series of events will discuss literary life in Ukraine after the Russian invasion. Speakers include Oleksandr Tkachenko, Ukraine minister of culture; Tetyana Teren, journalist and executive director of PEN Ukraine; and authors Victoria Amelina, Kateryna Babkina, and Olesia Khromechuk.
“We are delighted to host Ukrainian publishers and Ukrainian speakers as they explore the country’s rich literary culture and how the war is shaping literary output,” Rapley says, adding, “LBF’s seminar program promises to offer a plethora of thought-provoking and insightful discussions about every facet of the industry.”
Read more from our London Book Fair 2023:
London Book Fair 2023: Rights Center Buzz
At this year’s London Book Fair, U.S. agents will be talking up works by André Aciman, Miranda July, Matthew McConaughey, Lisa Scottoline, Curtis Sittenfeld, Jesmyn Ward, and Kerry Washington, among others.