London Book Fair

London Book Fair 2024: Balancing Commerce with Ethical Imperatives and Ukraine’s Uncertain Reality


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The London Book Fair’s (LBF) first day was abuzz with agents and book scouts hurrying to meetings. Most of them are fast paced and rarely exceed thirty minutes. These often result in initial agreements and lay the groundwork for future plans. A string business vibe has returned to the LBF.

There’s a sense that LBF is returning to its pre-Covid dynamic. Attendance has increased over the past few years as Gareth Rapley, Director of LBF has stated that the fair is “Very much back to the 2019 level of attendance.”


In the bustling landscape of book deals, the spotlight often shines brightest on titles with strong revenue potential. A notable example of this focus is Gollancz’s recent acquisition of “The Unmagical Life of Briar Jones” by author Lex Croucher. Gollancz secured the rights to this novel for in a whopping six figure deal that garnered significant attention. This deal is particularly noteworthy because it extends beyond just one book and also includes the author’s second standalone title. This acquisition underscores the industry’s strategic pursuit of commercially promising works.


The London Book Fair of this year united renowned authors, illustrators, and translators from around the world, alongside promising debut writers. Among the distinguished attendees were Richard Osman, Dr. Julie Smith, Steven Bartlett, Flavia Z. Drago, Joseph Coelho, Kat Brown, Ameena Sayid, Geeta Pendse, Jonathan Karp, Jasmine Richards, Vicky Palmer, Taylor Jenkins Reid, Danielle Jawando, and many others.

France, Italy, and Germany boasted the most impressive stands at the fair. France, in particular, commands the largest area in the central part of the floor. Italy, gearing up for its role as the guest of honor in Frankfurt, offers a sneak peek with a vibrant stand adorned with children’s books, board games, and novels. US takes a pragmatic approach, featuring mostly small stands from publishers or universities. Canada stands out with a large, bright display. Some countries, like the Philippines, have expanded from modest corners in previous years to expansive representative stands. Despite not being a sponsored country this year, Ukraine is represented by a stand positioned adjacent to Estonia’s.


In 2023 Ukraine was a Spotlight country of LBF, however, there was no spotlight program selected for this year:



“We very much look forward to bringing back this focus for the next few years. This year we have many new countries for the first time such as Greece, India, Bulgaria, Mexico, and Azerbaijan, so it wasn’t possible to pick one. However, market focus is very important for us as an industry, so we will probably announce something around 2026”, releases Gareth Rapley.



Despite facing a 35% venue shortage due to ongoing renovation works, the LBF implemented several innovative logistics solutions to facilitate navigation through the expansive event. These included colour-coded mapping zones; street signs, designated silence areas for listening to Main Stage events (given the limited capacity of a central gathering venue this year); a mobile app providing event; location details; schedules for all stages, QR code-enabled question submission for speakers.


Attendees experienced wait times of up to 30 minutes to join certain events, with no guarantee of seating due to high demand. It’s worth noting that many LBF events were not recorded, offering exclusive opportunities for attendees. Some events only accommodated 25-50% of interested participants.


RELATED: Reflections from Frankfurt 2023: The fragility of existence and supporting local markets


Looking ahead, plans include expanding the Writing Centre by at least 10-15% and increasing the number of rights tables. There is also a focus on expanding audio opportunities and exploring the future of creative content, shared with us by the main event organizer. LBF dates moved 5 weeks earlier and are going to stick to March due to a greater participation index along with a better line up with other major industry events. The dates for 2025 are March 11th-13th and for 2026 are March 10th-12th.



AI as a highlight. Sustainability, inclusivity and freedom to be different


No big surprises on the highlighted topics so far. The industry’s continued focus on AI and sustainable development remained apparent. Discussions dove deeper into practicalities such as data management; policy development; advocacy goals; and establishing a shared understanding of leading processes.


Read about AI discussion in details on Chytomo soon

Mental health and inclusivity emerged as prominent themes this year. Being fragile and being different – these are the two main motifs of the illustrator’s creative heritage of Flavia Z. Drago, the designated illustrator of the fair. In a conversation with Chytomo, she emphasized the importance of embracing diversity and individuality:


“This is all about being different. One of my stories shares the experience of how it feels to be shy and not confident, I felt something was always off about me. Why am I so different and others have no such difficulties? When I grew up I realized most of us have such issues: in life things will always go wrong, but you have to enjoy the path.”



Her first picture book as an author and illustrator called Gustavo the Shy Ghost (2020) became #1 in The NY Times Best Sellers; it was followed by Leila the Perfect Witch (2022) and by Vlad the Fabulous Vampire (2023). In 2021 she was the winner of the Klaus Flugge Prize.


Recognition as an illustrator of the 2024 Fair is a powerful tool to boost one’s professional career: Walker Books has acquired a trio of books by Flavia Z. Drago.


Sustainability is still a key topic, along with the areas of accessibility. This year panellists tended to explore practicalities: what does it mean sustainability in the book world? BIC, Publishers Association, IPG, and Society of Authors have undertaken detailed research on various aspects of sustainability with many printers and publishers taking actions to produce their books in a more sustainable manner. As reported by Nielsen BookData, 40-60% of publishers’ total emissions currently come from the paper production process.


More than 180 publishers have endorsed the Publishing Declares initiative, committing to climate action in the publishing industry. In a significant move to combat deforestation on a global scale, the European Commission has introduced regulations that will prohibit the placement of goods associated with deforestation or forest degradation on the European single market. This regulation aims to enhance transparency and accountability among businesses, both large and small, by mandating the reporting of product origins. The new rules are set to come into effect across all EU countries on December 30, 2024. At the same time, consumers are overwhelmingly looking to “make a green choice”, reports Sustainability Hub of LBF.


Among other trends, the spotlight undoubtedly shines on audio content, including audiobooks and podcasts. Long queues formed at the Spotify stand, underscoring the growing interest in audio experiences. Additionally, there was a notable proliferation of self-publishing tool-kits and services, reflecting the increasing autonomy and accessibility for authors in the publishing landscape.



Global industry book trends: consumers paying more, buying less books

Nielsen BookData Research has been conducting “deep dive” syndicated studies on specific market segments since 2012 which is a main insight provided at the LBF. LBF is the only opportunity to get some data for free as the cost of one report is £900 or a full subscription for £2,400.


Data from Nielsen BookScan covers global book sales market and indicates that the majority of territories experienced declines in volume sales during 2023. However, with average selling prices on the rise across the board, publishers’ financial performance remains resilient.


In 2023, eight out of ten Nielsen countries with measurable full-market data saw drops in volume sales compared to the previous year. The smallest markets, South Africa and New Zealand, experienced the most significant declines, both witnessing a 7.7% decrease in sales to 7.6 million and 6.1 million copies, respectively. Mexico (up 5.6% to 21.4 million units) and India (up 3.5% to 37.5 million copies) were the only countries to buck the downward trend.


Despite the decline in volume sales, robust average selling prices contributed to an overall increase in revenue, with five countries reporting revenue boosts. South Africa led in the “fewer books, more money” category, with revenues up by 1.2% despite the drop in copies sold.


Similar trends were observed in other countries, such as Italy, where overall sales grew by 0.8% despite a 0.7% reduction in copies sold.


Australia stood out as the only market among Nielsen territories where both figures declined, with book pricing down by 0.3%. However, British consumers were willing to pay 6.5% more per book, resulting in an average price of £9.22 – an increase of 0.65 pp compared to 2022.


Discussing Nielsen’s global standings, there are no surprises: James Clear’s “Atomic Habits” (2018) maintains its position as the top bestseller. It only failed to appear in three of Nielsen’s Top 20 lists — in Italy, Ireland, and the UK.


Following Clear is Prince Harry with his memoirs, which secured a spot in the top 5 in Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland, and in the top 10 in Poland. Colleen Hoover follows closely, with her books charting in six territories and 14 titles overall. In the UK alone, her total market in 2023 comprised 2.1 million copies sold, totaling £12.6 million.


One of the most visible translation trends in 2023 is the surge in popularity for manga and cozy novels in the UK, with Japanese writers leading the market for translated titles. Ukraine is not included in the top charts of translation but is continuing to expand in the market.


RELATED: The Ukrainian Publishing Market 2023: “Competition has reached unprecedented levels”


Ukraine: Fragility of Existence

Ukraine’s representation aroused mixed feelings. It contained a national stand – at a time when many countries have abandoned national stands. On the other hand, only eight publishing houses were able to participate. Perhaps this is also a contrast effect, as last year Ukraine was the focal country with a centrally located stand prepared by a collaboration of partners and a very rich program. This year, it is the sole responsibility of the Ukrainian Book Institute as the only state institution that, in accordance with Ukrainian legislation, promotes Ukrainian literature abroad.



“State participation in events of this level is also an important political moment and an element of cultural diplomacy, which is especially important in times of war. Last year, Ukraine participated in the fair free of charge, as an honor guest – we had a bigger stand and, accordingly, more publishers took part in the fair,” says Olga Shevchuk-Klyuzheva, Head of Public Relations at the Ukrainian Book Institute.



In 2024, Old Lion Publishing House, Bohdan Publishing House, CP Publishing, ASSA, Tianachu, Ranok, Nash Format, SNOWDROP, and Summit Book presented Ukraine at the LBF. Some of the publishers had to cancel their plans to participation a week or two before the fair due to visa processes and underestimating the planning. In 2023, Ukraine was a special guest of the LBF, where they were given a larger stand and more publishers taking part in the events.



Emma Shercliff, Laxfield Literary Associates, British publishing consultant and book market researcher commented on Ukraine representations:



“I felt that Ukrainian literature was well represented at LBF, and was delighted to see a wide range of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and children’s books by Ukrainian authors on submission.”



Among others, this year Emma Shercliff also presents the Ukrainian Oscar-winning photojournalist Mstyslav Chernov:



“I have been working with him on a photography book submission, so it was fabulous to be able to start the Fair with news of his Oscar win for 20 Days in Mariupol. He is well-known of course for his documentary filmmaker and reporting, but my aim is to build his literary profile over the months ahead, so it was great to have the opportunity to talk to publishers about his projects in progress. Those advance discussions are an important part of an agents’ work,” stated Emma Shercliff.


Besides Chernov, Emma Shercliff represents Victoria Amelina, who died as a result of the Russian terrorist act.



“My late author Victoria Amelina was very much in my mind throughout the week, as it was in London last year that we met in person for the first time, when she was a guest at the Fair. I spoke on a panel organized by English PEN about Publishing and Politics, where we paid tribute to Victoria and her work. We had an empty chair on the stage, as is PEN’s tradition, in recognition of writers who cannot be with us, but the symbolism was all too real as it was on the same stage that Vika spoke so powerfully last year.”



I should add here that Victoria’s name was mentioned at each event with Ukraine in the theme and mostly brought up by the international partners – we don’t need to remind anyone as her loss didn’t go unnoticed.



“Ukraine’s global visibility has surged, albeit for all the wrong reasons. This emphasis on Ukrainian literature was twofold: a response to Ukraine’s culture being attacked in Russia’s genocidal war, and an acknowledgement that the country had dwelled in the shadows of the publishing world for far too long. The hosts admirably amplified the voice of Ukraine when this was most needed, but it fell upon the Ukrainian publishing industry to sustain this momentum,”  


stated Dr Olesya Khromeychuk, Director, Ukrainian Institute London and highlights that as we look ahead to LBF 2025 and similar events globally, our hope is for Ukrainian culture to be celebrated not solely in response to Russia’s ongoing threats, but rather for the rich cultural heritage it brings to the world.



Editing: John G Sennett, Sr, Mark Klenk

Photos: Olha Mukha, Ukrainian stand – Embassy of Ukraine in the United Kingdom of the Great Britain and Northern Ireland