What’s the use of big book gatherings like last week’s London Book Fair? I say the use is to let publishing types feel rich and pampered for once. And that’s good enough for me. Everything I say is a lie.
It all sounded wonderfully sophisticated – publishing houses from around the world had flown their execs in to listen to the 30-minute pitches, pick up a few bestsellers, generally swan around boutique hotels and catch up with the shopping. It is, no doubt, good for us all that London hostc one of the two great book fairs, and consequently can claim to be more than the world’s biggest collection of bankers.
But how useful was the London Book Fair, really? For a start, even if a book does sound interesting, someone still has to read it and make a decision to buy the rights. Editors walked away with around 200 books each – and will probably read less than half of them. They may feel they should get round to buying something, anything, if only to justify the hotel suite, but will really have derived the most value out of simple networking. And because the fair was later this year – it’s normally in January or early February – everyone pitched their best books weeks ago.