At its heart, the London Book Fair is a rights fair, and once again, the International Rights Center sold out quickly this year. “We have so much demand,” LBF director Gareth Rapley says of the center, which is capped at 500 tables. “We could add much more.”

Agents are anticipating business in London will be brisk. In discussions about what is generating the most buzz, every agent PW spoke with cited the surging popularity of the romantasy genre. “It’s not as if this kind of marriage of romance and fantasy is new—it has been here forever and a day—but now it has been resurrected and everyone is chasing it,” says Jennifer Weltz, president of the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency and president of the Association of American Literary Agents. “It’s a cycle, a bit like how everyone revives new adult every few years.”

Weltz says that the 2023 Frankfurt Book Fair was the busiest fair for the agency in years, and she expects much the same in London this year. “We’re back in full swing,” she adds, noting that the end of the Hollywood writers’ strike in September was especially auspicious, as the streaming services are buying up properties due to pent-up demand. As a result, the London Book Fair’s efforts to expand to ancillary businesses looks prescient.

“Everyone said the big money bonanza from streamers would stop, but we haven’t seen that,” Weltz notes. “The challenge isn’t in finding books or in rights sales; instead, it is in getting the studios to make the final decision to green-light something.”

Looking further afield, Heather Baror-Shapiro of Baror International cites growing interest in rom-com, the dark academia subgenre, and Succession–style stories as generating queries from international buyers. “We feel interest in fiction is maintaining these trends while simultaneously broadening into more diverse stories that capture characters from all walks of life,” Baror-Shapiro says. “It’s hard to say whether it’s the demise of BookExpo or the globalization of authors’ platforms spurring the importance of foreign rights fairs, but the London Book Fair has continuously grown in importance.”

One category that has been on a downswing is historical fiction. “The further back in time it is set, the harder it is to sell,” Weltz says. Robert Gottleib, chairman of the Trident Media Group, concurs. “It’s just the reverse of three or four years ago,” he notes.

Everyone said the big money bonanza from streamers would stop, but we haven’t seen that.

Where the agents diverge in opinion is on the state of the market for literary fiction. Weltz says literary fiction rights have proven “very challenging both domestically and abroad,” while Gottlieb says sales of the genre are relatively strong.

He agrees, however, that the advances paid for debut literary fiction have markedly decreased. “Publishers were buying up a lot during the pandemic, but many didn’t pay off financially.”

One result of the smaller advances is that Trident is now working with a wider range of publishers than before. “Granted, smaller publishers don’t pay a lot of money, but they are looking for quality books, and we don’t equate the size of an advance with the quality of a book,” Gottlieb says.

He cites an ability to find new publishers to work with as one of the primary reasons for traveling to the London Book Fair year after year. “Smaller publishers don’t always attend the London Book Fair, but many do, and we find them by walking the aisles. We see attending London as an opportunity to expand our base beyond the Penguin Random Houses, HarperCollinses, or Simon & Schusters of the world, and to find our authors homes.”

And extended listing of projects agents will be shopping at the show is available here and will be added to up to the start of the fair.

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