To the London Book Fair, or LBF, or Load of Bloody Fuss, at Earl’s Court. It’s a sort of Ideal Homes Exhibition for publishers, and to be honest, I much prefer the venue when there’s a decent band on. In the olden days (ie. about ten years ago), the fair was an exciting place to be, with publishers running around like headless chickens throwing silly money at Big Books. These days, the only Big Book activity is the staged announcement that one has been bought weeks before, and the rights director trying to claw some of the advance back by selling foreign rights. For an editor now, it’s more about the meet and greet, catching up with old acquaintances and making new ones.
I am shown enough books on the environment to turn me into Jeremy Clarkson. An equal number of misery memoirs, not to mention stories of drug addicts and drug mules, alcoholics and prostitutes, all telling the ups and downs of their ‘rollercoaster’ life story, ‘overcoming’ their terrible odds. I’m offered an autobiography of an ex-boy band member, and another of one of the worst pop acts of recent years. I come away with the sense that I’ve only put my foot in it twice – once when I start talking to an editor about a friend’s wedding he hasn’t been invited to; and once when I big up a book I’m publishing in the summer to someone I then discover to be the author’s ex-wife. Ah well.
On day one of three I chat to seven literary agents, four American publishers, one Canadian publisher, three British editors, one television producer, one journalist and one professor. Oh, and to one author – a chap called Dave Cornthwaite who we have just signed up to tell his story of skateboarding from one side of Australia to another. He’s a nice guy and genuinely excited to be published. His enthusiasm is the highlight of my day.