The 12th Non/Fiction Fair, running from December 1 to 5, has stayed true to its founding idea of providing Muscovites and international attendees with high-quality literary fiction and nonfiction titles. There are more than 290 exhibitors from 19 countries and 300 events scheduled for the five-day cultural event that features France as the honored guest. The number of visitors braving the frigid weather and making their way to Moscow’s renowned Central House of Artists where the fair is held is expected to exceed 30,000.

“This fair has been growing by itself, and our task lies mostly in steering it toward the right direction,” said project director Ekaterina Zvorykina of Expo-Park, which organizes the fair with funding support from Moscow City. “We introduced a new segment called Vinyl Club this year, with about 30 exhibitors waiting to advise visitors on what to buy or how to build up their own vinyl collection. The whole idea is to spark interest in a segment that quite popular in Europe but has not caught up in this country.” Older segments of the fair, such as Antique Books (introduced six years ago) and Children’s Zone (four years), have been very successful at this fair.

For Emma House, trade and international director of the U.K.'s Publishers Association, this fair provides an excellent opportunity to obtain an overview of the Russian publishing business especially since Russia will be London Book Fair 2011’s market focus. “For me, the Moscow International Book Fair held annually in September remains important, but that is a public fair focused on bookselling. This fair, on the other hand, is a tightly organized professional event that caters very well to the business of publishing. This year’s event is much busier and more business-oriented than ever before but still maintains its high-quality exhibits.” On her third visit to the fair, House is accompanied by a delegation of U.K. publishers, such as Oxford University Press, Capstone Press, Random House, Wolters Kluwer Health, and Rosalind Ramsay.

Pearson Education, represented by rights director Lynette Owen, is also part of the U.K. delegation. Owen, a frequent visitor to the Moscow Fair and a second-timer to this event, is taking the opportunity to visit clients under one roof while bringing along six rights contracts for signatures. “Licensing has been tough in the educational segment but it is growing.” Owen will be speaking at a seminar aimed at priming Russian publishers for next year’s LBF, and is focused on helping Russian publishers export their titles. “I’m very optimistic about this market, and governmental support from agencies such as the Federal Agency for Press and Mass Communication has been most helpful in promoting Russian literature and publishers.”

Another Brit, Andrew Nurnberg, head of the eponymous rights agency, is passionate about this fair. “This is an event unlike any other. It has nothing to do with the product, distribution problem, bankruptcies or piracy. It is about how best to publish an author and promote [him or her]. It provides tiny publishing houses that are often sidelined an opportunity to promote their books.” Holding a Russian edition of Marjorie William’s The Velveteen Rabbit, Nurnberg explained his excitement about “finding cloth-bound classical children’s books that are so rare, they are collectibles.” Nurnberg’s Moscow office was established in 1993, the first private and foreign-owned literary agency in the country.

For Per Oystein Roland and Dina Roll-Hansen of NORLA (Norwegian Literature Abroad), attending the fair is a no-brainer. “The shared history between Russia and the northern regions of Norway and the special pidgin language [“pomor”] used by traders from both sides had spilled over to literature and books long ago,” said Roland. This year, about 35 titles by Norwegian authors such as Jo Nesbo, Erlend Loe, Maria Parr and Nils Christi have been translated into Russian. “Classics by Ibsen, Hamsun, and Heyerdahl had been here much earlier. In fact, Heyerdahl was one of the first foreign authors allowed to be published in Russia,” noted Roll-Hansen.

Over at the Prague Book Fair stand, managing director Dana Kalinova was already negotiating for a bigger booth in 2011. The Czech Republic was the honored guest last year, and Kalinova brought about 500 titles to that event. “The success was almost immediate. [Some of] our authors, such as Jaroslav Hasek (The Good Soldier Svejk), Bohumil Hrabal, Karel Capek and a few other young authors, have been translated into Russian, and that is something not easily achieved by a minor language like Czech. Overall, I’m very impressed by this fair and by Russian readers: they are very knowledgeable, and the children very well educated.”

Next year, the Non/Fiction Fair will welcome Spain as its honored guest and will be paying even more attention to children’s publications and events supporting this particular segment.