"I think it's been the most exciting London Book Fair at least since Covid, if not before that," Penguin Random House US CEO Nihar Malaviya said as he roamed the floor at the end of the first day of the 2024 London Book Fair. "The number of people here, the amount of energy here, is absolutely amazing."

Many of Malaviya's colleagues—both at his company and in the industry at large—agree. An ebullient Dominique Raccah, CEO and publisher of Sourcebooks called the fair "probably the busiest show I've seen since Covid"—not just in London, but out of all international fairs. Raccah said she is particularly excited to visiting the U.K. and Europe after If Only I Had Told Her by Laura Nowlin reached #1 on two continents—a feat, Raccah noted, that even the majors have trouble doing. "There's a ton of expansion opportunities for us," Raccah said. "International is vibrant. It's cooking."

Supporting the rumblings among fairgoers that the Americans have increased their presence here in Old Smoke this year, a number of veteran fairgoers have noted the presence of a number of new faces among the crowd. "There's new faces—I'm not the only person who's been like, 'this is my second fair or my third fair,'" said Lisa Lucas, senior v-p and publisher of Pantheon and Schocken. "It's been good to watch this much interchange, this much investment, this much international collaboration."

This is the second London Book Fair that Margot Atwell, executive director and publisher of the Feminist Press, has been to since the pandemic, and she too said it feels like the fair is fuller, both in terms of attendance and energy. Supporting the new faces theory, she pointed to Feminist Press assistant editor Kameel Mir. "It's her first show, and getting to see it through her eyes has been so exciting," Atwell said. "I can't wait for her to start acquiring books."

Both Atwell and Lucas noted that the particular positivity being felt this year comes in part because "it's been a rough couple of years in a lot of different ways," as Lucas put it. "I think everyone is starting to feel pressure at home—in different ways, based on what country they're in," Atwell added. "But I think that there's still a lot of enthusiasm around great voices and great books."

Books, with an "s" at the end, is the key this year. Despite the ever-present quest among attendees to find out what title might be crowned, however unofficially, "the book of the show," generally, people are saying that the chatter this year isn't limited to just one book. "The conversation, for me at least, has not been about 'the book,' it's been about the books," Lucas said. "That is actually the kind of conversation I'm always looking to have, and it feels better here than it does lots of places."

Still, there are contenders. An unnamed new book by Rebecca Traister, a number of fairgoers said, got publishers scrambling over rights. And a Japanese horror novel, Strange Pictures, has also attracted a good deal of interest.

"The rights center is jam-packed, our tables are packed, and even on Day Two, there's no seats at our stand. There's a lot of business being done," said Brian Murray, CEO of HarperCollins US. "It feels like it's back to pre-Covid levels—the energy is really good, and there's a lot of optimism."

Ethan Nosowsky, editorial director of Graywolf Press, said that his job at the London Book Fair was to search for the "diamonds in the rough" among the many books on offer. He noted that the compressed time frame between the fairs in Frankfurt and London meant that people were scrambling to get their materials ready in time—something echoed by numerous fairgoers. But like Murray, he said that "there's a level of excitement here that we haven't felt since before Covid," Nosowsky said.

On the audiobook side, Rachel Ghiazza, chief content officer at Audible, said that her company had been “hearing so much enthusiasm on the ground this week about the massive growth in the audiobook category,” adding that publishers are coming to us not only to talk about how to engage current book lovers, but also about how to reach new, non-traditional readers.”

Fairgoers from the U.K. largely concurred with their American colleagues in acknowledging the fair was business, and buzziness, of the fair. "My schedule has filled up quicker than ever," said Caroline Michel, CEO of Peter Fraser and Dunlop. "There is a complete lack of fear, both physically—people are not in masks—and commercially." And, she concluded: "The parties are back. And the dinners are back."

Jonathan Lloyd, President of Curtis Brown, echoed her sentiments. "There is an air of confidence this year and it is busy, we are having a lot of sensible meetings, and the key people are here," he said. "This is a must-attend fair now."

Away from the rights center, publishers were equally optimistic. Perminder Mann, CEO of Bonnier Books UK, said it was "busy, buzzy, with loads of energy," and that Bonnier "had seen a lot of deals coming before the fair, with big money spent."

"London, over the past 10 years, has become, if not as significant as Frankfurt, a rival kind of fair," said Jamie Byng, managing director of Canongate Books. "This year has been the best fair I've been at for years in London. Last year, you could feel it coming back, but this year, there's more American editors than I've ever seen here—but also just from around the world."

Novin Doostdar, cofounder of the triple Booker Prize–winning publisher Oneworld, stood in line for 20 minutes to get into a session one of his own authors—Avi Shlaim, author of Three Worlds: Memoirs of an Arab-Jew—was speaking at. "It is so busy—the busiest since 2019," he said. Helen Kogan, managing director at Kogan Page, echoed the sentiment: "It's really buzzy and positive."

"There is a real confidence and energy," said Joel Rickett, managing director of Penguin Random House UK imprint Ebury, "and the people who would have only come once every two or three years are all here." In Rickett's market, nonfiction, picking books likely to succeed in the market was more important than ever, he said, "because the base has come down a bit. If it's just an average book with an average author, it's just going to disappear, but that wasn't the case ten years ago."

Frankfurt Book Fair President and CEO Juergen Boos was also in attendance, and, noting the vibrancy of LBF, confirmed that signs were also optimistic for this year's Frankfurt event, with LitAg bookings 12% up.

Meanwhile Nigel Newton, chief executive of Bloomsbury, put the optimism into broader context, saying: "The highlight of my exciting first day at LBF 2024 was, without doubt, paying tribute to the 70th birthday of Book Aid International." Its important work was underlined to him by a Ukrainian PEN representative, Olha Mukha, whose nine-year-old daughter used a book to distract and comfort her best friend in an air raid shelter during a Russian attack.

London Book Fair director Gareth Rapley said that the response to the fair's programming has been very positive, despite long lines to get into some of the most popular events. "The words I keep hearing are 'heaving' and 'buzzy,'"Rapley said, noting the that renewals for next year's fair, which will take place March 11–13, are already very strong. "I think this whole week has demonstrated once again that we are the essential spring fair for the industry."