So another London Book Fair is in the rear view mirror, and I’m sorry to be done with it. This was the most energetic and active of the three Fairs I’ve attended, and the optimism of the professionals there gave everyone a spring in his or her step and a bit more patience for the crowds and the espresso lines.
From the HSG side, we had a busy and productive couple of days. To show you the pace, I’ll just give you a sense of our schedule:
Monday evening: Leave JFK at 8:30 PM
Tuesday morning: Arrive Heathrow at 8:30 AM (In between, read 450 pages of manuscripts, drink a nice red wine, and sleep…45 minutes or so). Speed through Passport Control, crawl through West London in a cab, get to the hotel, shower and change, and arrive at the Olympia in time for a 1 PM meeting. One note: This year, we made two extremely important decisions, which ended up making a huge difference in the experience of the Fair: We rented a table in the Rights Center, so we had a place to sit and meet people, rather than having to run around the room to everyone else’s tables; and Danielle Burby came along. Danielle has taken over our Foreign rights sales, and by tag-teaming the meetings (and occasionally taking simultaneous meetings), we were able both to meet more foreign agents and not do all the talking. So we were fresher at the end of each day, and were able to bounce conversations between us.
One thing to know about Book Fairs as different from Conferences or gatherings like Bouchercon or Thrillerfest: While those are all about authors meeting each other and agents and editors, this is really a Trade Show. Everyone we met with was either a co-agent from a foreign territory, an editor, or a client. A few (lost) authors approached us to try to pitch us their books, but this (or Frankfurt or Bologna or BEA) is not the place for it. Danielle spent two months coordinating the week, and every minute was pretty much scheduled out.
So anyway, we had our first meeting at 1 on Tuesday, after getting the first of…many coffees. We then had eight meetings. Then went to a reception from a film company. Had a beer, met three old friends in the film world, and had Curry #1 at Woodlands, the best veggie Indian restaurant in London. Then to the hotel, crash, and…
Up on Wednesday. Meeting #1 is breakfast at the hotel with Emad Akhtar, editor extraordinaire at Michael Joseph, who has been working with our client Chris Mooney on going-on three thrillers now. Emad is a fascinating, smart guy—both committed to traditional publishing AND wanting to see it push forward into the modern age. We walked over to the Olympia—a nice 15 minutes, bracing ourselves for the crowds and the chaos.
And for me, the rest of the day was taken up with 14 more meetings, ranging from our brilliant German co-Agent Tilo to an exploratory discussion with a software developer based in Spain with a program designed to make our agency more efficient. Then drinks at a local pub in Notting Hill and another reception. And the day is really taken up with a combination of pitching to co-agents the books we’ve retained the translation rights to, and convincing publishers to do more marketing for the books they’ve already bought. These days, so much of the discussion is about discoverability that it dominates discussion.
Finally we were talked out. And that happens, almost every day, and requires a real unwinding. For me, I often walk the streets of London, just looking around, trying not to think about the day but rather to just relax. I realized I was hungry, found Curry Joint #2, and had a delicious second supper. It’s not that I don’t eat terrific Indian food in New York. It’s just that I really always want to eat it in London. Also fish and chips, although there’s an Irish pub on the Upper West Side that solves that the rest of the year.
The hotel I was staying in had a lovely small bar, and I ended my evening with a solitary nightcap—that Wednesday was one of the most satisfying days of my career—it felt sometime mid-morning that Danielle and I had really hit a stride, and the agents and editors were listening to us, and we just knew we were making our points with clarity and emphasis. We’ll see how that bears out in the next few months, but it was a cool feeling.
Thursday was a sprint—early wakeup and pack, another breakfast, another nice walk to the Olympia, this time dragging my suitcase. Then only four meetings—Danielle had four more after I left—and it was off to the airport (and Duty Free chocolate and booze). We leave with so many new contacts, so much more business, so much follow-up.
Here’s the tally:
30 meetings in 19 hours
15 territories, from Brazil to Russia to Korea to Spain (which has gotten off the canvas to start publishing books again)
Nine coffees, black
12 bottles of water, carbonated
4 sandwiches to complement the rest of our meals
Four different beers
Three different whiskeys
Four NYU Publishing Students who found me on the Floor of the Rights Center and even called me Professor Getzler!
Three changes on the Tube from Piccadilly Circus to Kensington High Street
One great Fair