London Book Fair: Making a more inclusive book industry

The London Book Fair is one of the largest annual gatherings for the book industry, particularly for agents and publishers looking to trade in international rights. Between March 12 – March 14, attendees who were not sitting in the Rights Hall or dashing to meetings sat in on seminars, strolled the booths, and met colleagues from around the globe who also made the trip to Olympia London.

Where the Book World Comes to Meet

Each year, the London Book Fair focuses on a particular market from around the world. This year the spotlight was on Indonesia. Made up of thousands of islands and religiously diverse, Indonesia was able to showcase their books and culture to a global audience. The Indonesian book market is as diverse as its many thousands of islands, titles are produced in many different languages, and few are translated into English. Theirs is a growing market, with an increasing international presence. Fiction – short stories, in particular – are popular in Indonesia. Indonesian readers read across a broad number of topics, but myths, spirituality and beliefs seem to be at the forefront of Indonesian publishing.

Throughout the Fair, we found that the most prevalent theme was inclusivity. Genres and formats that are growing in the industry are the ones best able to connect with a diverse audience. By making the publishing industry more diverse, it takes steps to become more inclusive.

Diversity refers to the different kinds of people who are involved in an industry, or the different kinds of stories that are told. Inclusion refers to an overall atmosphere that is welcoming to different kinds of people, including those who have been traditionally marginalized within the industry.

Diversity

One of the biggest aims of the publishing industry over the last few years has been that of creating books with more diverse characters, written by more diverse authors. Whilst the industry is heading towards having greater diversity, there is more that needs to be done. Actor, author, and TV presenter Cerrie Burnell highlighted, during the Diversity: Where’s the Issue panel, that diversity within books, children’s books in particular, needs to be more normalized. She said it should be as “normal as observing it when living and walking around London.” Author and illustrator Rose Robins took a similar stance, suggesting that neurodiverse characters should be included more in literature, rather than treated as plot devices. (That’s one of the reasons we loved The Kiss Quotient – check out our recent case study here!)

To connect with audiences from different backgrounds, the publishing industry needs to become more diverse as a profession, in addition to publishing more books with more diverse characters. Speakers from HarperCollins, SAGE Publishing, and EW Group touched on this in their panel on building a more diverse and inclusive industry. Efforts to make publishing houses more diverse need to start from the recruitment stage to keep the industry vibrant.

Poetry

At LBF19, we saw that poetry is on the rise. Poetry sales in January 2019 were at an all-time high, growing by 12% according to Nielsen Bookscan. The recent success of poetry has been attributed to its being more inclusive and diverse than other book genres, with more young people than ever buying and engaging with poetry. The success of Rupi Kaur, writing about her experience as a woman and as a daughter of immigrants, as well as Charly Cox, indicates that there is a huge audience eager to see themselves reflected in the books that they read. And with platforms like Instagram, poets have new ways of reaching younger, digitally engaged audiences. More traditional forms have also found a new audience, with Robin Robertson’s The Long Take the first work of poetry to be nominated for the Man Booker Prize. Sales of poetry have been building for the past few years, and it looks like 2019 will continue to see an upsurge of interest  in the popularity of poetry.

Audiobooks

Unsurprisingly, of all the formats discussed at the London Book Fair audiobooks continues  to be on everyone’s radar. According to Nielsen figures the sales of audiobooks have increased by 87% in the UK since 2014. The popularity of audiobooks has been linked to the trend of podcasts and engaging young men in particular with a different format of reading. But audiobooks have seen a rise overall and the boom seems set to continue for 2019 and onwards. (Check out some of our podcast coverage here.)

Nonfiction

Nonfiction is also a hot topic, as both adult and children’s nonfiction sales have increased in the last year. For adult nonfiction, a large proportion of the success comes down to feminist titles and inspiring books such as Slay in Your Lane by Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebenene, Bloody Brilliant Women by Cathy Newman and Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love. As nonfiction has become more diverse in its scope, it has drawn in new audiences.

We were encouraged to see the book industry slowly moving towards being more inclusive, with publishers and authors having great successes on more diverse books. Different formats and genres are reaching new audiences and encouraging a whole new generation of readers.Keep up with the rest of our conference season coverage by subscribing to NetGalley Insights!

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Making the Most Out of Conference Season

With London Book Fair around the corner, here at NetGalley we’re gearing up for weeks of plane travel, convention centers, and branded pens. Conference season is a crucial time for us to see our clients across the country, to check in about their needs, and to continue building the kinds of rich personal relationships that make this industry vibrant.

In order to make the most out of any conference, it’s best to arrive with a plan. Here’s how we’re planning on getting the most out of conference season.

View from London Book Fair 2018
Photo credit: LondonBookFair.co.uk

Identify your goals

What is it that you want to get out of a conference? Make your goals clear before you arrive, whether just to yourself or with your team. Then, with that in mind, you can plan how to best spend your time. Are you hoping to get an overall sense of industry trends at one of the big trade shows? Make sure to spend some time wandering through the booths to see what patterns you notice. Are you hoping to forge new connections? Make sure to take advantage of sponsored networking opportunities. If you are more junior at your company, use an event to demonstrate your value to your colleagues and learn more about the industry by offering to take notes in client meetings or by writing a conference recap for your team. Conferences can be overwhelming, but if you go in clear about what you are hoping to get out of the experience, you’ll be able to create some structure for yourself.  

Set realistic expectations

It’s unlikely for an indie author to land a whirlwind movie deal for their debut novel at London Book Fair (although it does sound like a meet-cute in a book we’d probably read). London Book Fair has around 25,000 attendees every year, which is quite a crowd. If you hope to land  your big break at a professional conference, you will likely end up disappointed. Instead, focus on smaller and more attainable goals, while remaining flexible enough for surprises. Consider each conference as a chance to grow your professional network by meeting new people who you will keep in touch with over the coming months and deepening your relationships with colleagues across the industry. Remember to do your research ahead of time, too–understanding the audience attending or exhibiting at each conference, and what the main focus of the event is goes a long way toward setting your own expectations and goals.

Go to the seminars and lectures

Take advantage of all the experts giving advice and talking about industry trends. Take a look at the schedule before you arrive at the conference to see which talks you’ll definitely want to attend, and schedule your other meetings around them. Seminars and lectures are perfect opportunities to get inspired by how other folks in publishing are handling the challenges of the industry in new and creative ways. Then, once you’re in the room with colleagues in your field, introduce yourself to the lecturers who you’d like to connect with and say hello to audience members who asked questions relevant to your work. Targeted seminars are great places to forge connections with people who might be working on similar projects. Last year at London Book Fair, there were over 220 programs to attend. This year looks to be just as jam-packed. There’s sure to be something tailored to your specific needs at any of the larger industry gatherings.

Meetings at BookExpo 2018
Photo credit: Bookweb.org

Put faces to names

One of the most important benefits of conferences, especially the huge ones, is that everyone will be there. Use these opportunities to meet people who you only communicate with via email or phone in person. A few weeks before the conference, start asking your colleagues and clients if they’ll be attending, and find the time to get together either for a formal meeting or a casual catch-up. And, even if they won’t be attending, they’ll certainly appreciate being asked. In-person meetings are one of the most important ways to strengthen your professional relationships.

Follow up

You’ll likely leave any professional conference with a stack of business cards. Rather than letting them wither in a filing cabinet, send a quick email introduction after the conference. That way, you’ll still be fresh in each other’s memory, and now you’ve established some digital communication.

Record your impressions

When you’re on the conference floor or talking with colleagues, your mind is likely to be buzzing with new ideas or busy making connections between different aspects of the industry. We recommend writing down these thoughts while you’re still at the conference, or very quickly thereafter. When you return to your regular daily activities, you’ll be able to refer to the inspiration you felt or the trends you saw when you need to zoom out and look at the big picture of your work. It’s worthwhile to revisit these notes throughout the year, too! You may have learned something new since then that casts those earlier experiences in a new light.

Plan your 2020 budgets

After you return from your conferences, keep track of which events were the best fits for your previously-established goals. Which ones were most worth your while and which ones did you go to purely out of habit? Then, when you are planning how best to allocate your budget for next year, you’ll have documentation to refer back to when deciding whether to budget in those same conferences next year.

We’re packing our bags for the next few weeks on the road. Stay tuned for our recaps from some of the conferences we’ll be attending. See you at the convention centers!

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