Pub Rants

Wrapping Up The London Book Fair

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STATUS: I can’t say I’m completely recovered from jet lag but it’s definitely getting better.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? TROUBLE SLEEPING by Corinne Bailey Rae

So here’s the wrap up from London. First off, I had dinner with a good agent friend Jennifer Jackson while I was there and she had some huge news to share with me and since it’s so big, I have to blog about it.

I mean, it’s not every day that one of your clients hits the New York Times Bestseller list. And you know what? It’s not every day that the client nabs the #1 spot. This deserves a special shout out.

So CONGRATS Jennifer!!! (And maybe I should say congrats to Jim as well. After all, the author probably had something to do with it… Grin)

#1 NYT Bestseller TURN COAT

But back to talking about LBF. In browsing through Waterstone’s and Borders, it was very clear to me that the UK publishers definitely have a focus on literary fiction. There large book stalls that featured the classics. (I mean when is the last time you saw Thomas Hardy prominently featured in a book store?) Also, a good majority of the floor space was dedicated to contemporary literary fiction. Titles such as Aravind Adiga’s THE WHITE TIGER and Steig Larsson’s GIRL WITH A DRAGON TATTOO were prominently displayed.

Although quite popular here in the states, I really didn’t see any Edgar Sawtelles out and about on floor displays.

I talked with editors from the UK, Finland, Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy, Brazil, China and Japan. Every single one of them asked about literary fiction that could have broad appeal. In fact, in several of the foreign territories, literary fiction sales were up. In talking with the editors, it was clear that it has a strong market abroad—in a lot of ways, much stronger than here in the States were lit fic can do well but lit fic with a commercial bent can be blockbuster. Some commercial literary titles like MEMORY KEEPER’S DAUGHTER did well across the seas but WATER FOR ELEPHANTS was stronger here at home.

Just interesting.

In Asian territories, literary/commercial historical fiction doesn’t work at all. The editors won’t even look at it. However, UK and European editors say bring it on–they’d love to look.

I may add more to this blog tomorrow as my notes are at the office (where Julie is typing them up!). I headed home early because the weather was bad and Chut is fundamentally opposed to walking in the rain. I’ll glance through them and see if I can come up with a few more “this is what they are buying” lists because I know how much my readers like it.

20 Responses

  1. Sarah Haines said:

    It isn’t easy to do when it is raining, but try to get out in the sun. That will help reset your circadian rhythm. Thanks for sharing the info you’ve gathered at the London Book Fair!

  2. Lucy said:

    My, oh my! Sounds like a fascinating trip. I love hearing what’s selling across the pond. Welcome back, Kristen. 🙂

  3. Kaz Augustin said:

    Considering I’m living in the region, I’d love to know what Asian editors DO like. So far, genre fiction is quite emphatically off the list. And now you say commercial historical and lit is, as well? From vox pop questions, my own conclusion is that Asians love more literary romance rather than genre. The worse the story ends, the better they seem to like it! * sigh *

  4. Anonymous said:

    Dear Ms. Nelson,

    I know this is off-topic, but I have a question regarding a statement on your agency website.

    On your DOs and DON’Ts list you say an author shouldn’t query multiple projects in an email to an agent they’re hoping will represent them. My question is, if the author has a successful track record and is previously published, and is seeking an agent because his agent has retired, is it not MORE persuasive to outline, briefly, two or three projects he wishes to pursue if signed with the agent?

    My feeling is that perhaps the agent will only be persuaded if she likes one or two of the proposed projects, but not necessarily the project the author would pitch if restricted to querying just one.

  5. Hannah said:

    Thanks for all the information Kristin – it sounds like a fascinating trip and I’m glad you seemed to have such a great time!

    I’m still fascinated by the differences between the UK and US market, particularly regarding the classics. I cannot imagine a book shop without a huge classics section in which to while away an hour or so! Do US book shops not have them at all, or are they just much less obvious?

    You don’t have Penguin in the US do you? That may have something to do with it, as they are so prolific in the classics market over here.

  6. magolla said:

    YAY for Jim and Jenn!!
    I LOVE Butcher and want to be him when I grow up–too bad that will result in a gender change and facial hair…

  7. Caitlin said:

    I’m an Australian living in London. It’s funny because an American friend of mine was trying to tell me that Jodi Picoult is literary. I think she’s quite good but to me it’s very commercial, page-turning stuff.

    When you refer to Waterstones are you talking about the 5-storey flagship store on Piccadilly, or the smaller outlets you find all around the UK?

    Did you go to Foyles on Charing Cross Road? It’s far and away the best bookstore in London in my opinion and there’s a whole bunch of bookstores on the same street.

  8. Anonymous said:

    medical romance is huge in Europe. If you want to break into the romance market that seems like the way to go. A huge bonus is even first time authors get translated. This is in addition to being published in UK/US/OZ.

  9. HeatherM said:

    It doesn’t surprise me too much that Asia & Europe are polar opposites, but I am surprised that so many want to look at lit fiction. Interesting. And uh, I agree with Chut!

  10. Dara said:

    Interesting about the historical fiction not even a consideration in Asian territories. I’m glad I’m here in the States–all I ever write is historical fiction 🙂

  11. susiej said:


    I’m new to your blog, but, wow, so glad I found it.

    I loved hearing about the differences over the pond and beyond. I recently spent a week in London and though I didn’t hit any bookstores (had plenty of reading material in my suitcase), it doesn’t surprise me that Hardy would be front and center. Though a thoroughly modern culture, they are deeply rooted and appreciative of their traditions. And great literature is one of those.

    I particularly enjoyed your last post showing the different covers. I wouldn’t have been able to keep my hands off that book either.

    Thanks for sharing!

  12. Jen P said:

    Interesting insights – thanks. FYI Hotel on Corner of Bitter and Sweet is in the main display at my local German based English-language bookstore – one whole case is dedicated to the NYT bestsellers. Turn Coat – congrats – but oh, that’s a US cover, right! Very helpful. Have been considering querying US agents but think I should stick to UK after your remarks on Lit. Fiction.

  13. Marie Lu said:

    Fascinating! Thanks for posting this, Kristin. 🙂

    I can understand why historical fiction doesn’t sell in Asian territories. After all, most historical fiction is set in Europe or the US, and I’m guessing that many Asians would prefer to read historicals that take place somewhere in Asia. At least, that’s how my mom thinks. 🙂

    Really interesting (and encouraging) to hear that literary fiction is so popular overseas!

  14. Tsuki said:

    That’s interesting about the anti-historical attitude in Asian markets. I don’t read many Asian books (my kanji skills are still rather lacking, I’m afraid), but I’m an avid anime fan, and there are a lot of historical series there, including some that take place in Europe. Now, that’s just Japan, and I realize that what works on screen doesn’t always work in print, but you’d think there would be SOME kind of correlation…. *shrugs* Just my personal observations–I won’t claim to really know what I’m talking about. 😉

    One thought, though: A lot of the historical anime series also have fantasy elements. So maybe Asians (or at least the Japanese) like paranormal historicals better than realistic ones?