This week’s London Book Fair almost sank because of the European flight ban. Those who did manage to attend the annual event said between 50-80% of meetings had been cancelled. Around 15% of seminars were scrapped. “For me, the biggest lack has been the Americans,” says literary agent Julian Friedmann of Blake Friedmann.
Alistair Burtenshaw, director of the LBF, says the number of attendees was down by at least one third. Burtenshaw has praised the “Dunkirk spirit” demonstrated by everybody.
Mike Jones, Simon & Schuster’s non-fiction editorial director, tells me half of his appointments were cancelled. “I think it was hugely affected,” he says. “It was it has to be said, very quiet.”
Literary agent Ali Gunn adds, “The volcano eruption had a devastating effect not only on travel but also on UK trade. The LBF looked more like the deck of the Titanic without Leonardo DiCaprio. I bumped into only one senior American editor when normally the fair would be awash with publishers from the US and all around the world.”
Gunn warns that this week’s disaster will have a knock-on effect for publishers. The book trade will have to work harder and longer garnering those key international sales that guarantee a book’s success or failure, she says.