You are an up and coming author; you don’t feel that your agent and publisher are doing enough to promote your current book; this is the place to write your next, to get your own back, about an agent and publisher who attend a book fair and disappear, never to be seen again. Security checked them on arrival in the morning, along with everyone else, but late in the evening their families start the frantic phone calls; they haven’t come came home: are they lost in the vast cavernous spaces of the exhibition centre, perhaps lying undiscovered in a dark corner of the car park, or are they out partying – perhaps having an illicit liaison or has something more sinister happened to them……? Three days later the book fair closes and they have still not been found…….
Every fiction plot you can imagine is probably here in one form or another, along with a vast array of non-fiction books, children’s books and academic books. It is spring, and as the daffodils sprout up in Kensington Gardens, along the road at Olympia, the London Book Fair 2019 has taken over and filled every available space. This is Olympia at its best! The challenge for a new up and coming author is to find a new plot and a new meaning.
The international stands are here, from all across the world and it is perhaps a sign of the times that Indonesia has such a prominent presence, along with China and India. Large international publishers are here, plus Amazon and Kindle, as are small specialist and local companies, agents, publishers, translators and distributers all trying to connect together, along with other support professions and, inevitably, self-publishing organisations, in which there is growing interest, all with a vibrancy that confirms that the book is very much alive and well.
The seminars, conversations and workshops are popular, with standing room only, including a discussion on branding for authors and budding authors by Sam Missingham, Ruth Waldram and Natalie Fergie, linking to the use of social media with an emphasis on authenticity, and a presentation by Adipat Virdi on the potential future of publishing with immersive positive storytelling, rather than passive reading of books, while elsewhere authors such as the crime writers Denise Mina and Abir Mukherjee were in spirited and lively conversation, here with a Scottish edge.
Books still have social impacts and the power to change lives and, unusually, there was a demonstration by ‘The Testaments’, while there was also an enjoyable relaxing installation drawing attention to the Mobile Beach Library initiative which will be installed in beaches with books free to borrow, to encourage a love of reading and knowledge as part of Sharjah World Book Capital 2019. Sharjah and Dubai (The Mohammed Bin Rashid Maktoum Knowledge Foundation) are both countries which are using books and learning to facilitate change, particularly as regards women while, tucked away in a small stand on the upper floor was one of the most important initiatives here: rebuilding and restocking the library of Mosel University which was destroyed by IS in 2015, with the loss of over one million books. Many were irreplaceable but, if the University and the country is going to flourish, then books, particularly university texts, are needed. Book Aid International and Mosul Book Bridge are working together to support this.
And of course, there are teasers of books to come – watch out for Elton John’s autobiography in the autumn!