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London Book Fair 2019 Roundup

As another London Book Fair comes to an end it’s always good to take stock, and reflect on the books and trends that are capturing readers’ attention around the world.

A key fixture in the publishing calendar, the London Book Fair is a great opportunity for us to catch up with all our international colleagues and spend a week talking about non-stop about books. Across the agency we take hundreds of meetings throughout the week, as well as attend drinks receptions and dinners, all with the aim of meeting as many international editors, producers and agents as possible. It isn’t just the chance to spread the word about all the wonderful books from MM Agency authors – though that is top of our list! – but it’s also a chance for us to find out more about the bestsellers and key trends that are happening around the world.

Naturally Brexit was in the air and with several French colleagues stuck or delayed at Gard du Nord due to strikes, the looming uncertainty and disruption was very present. Despite this, the mood remained upbeat. Publishers and producers are still looking for great storytelling and brilliant writing, and relationships and collaborations are as strong as ever. This is even reflected in the UK where the translated fiction market has been growing. The borders for books it seems are still open!

So what is everyone clamouring to read?

In fiction, there are few surprises about the books hitting the bestseller lists. Crime and thrillers are still at the top of publishers wish lists, and while psychological thrillers continue to do well there has definitely been a shift towards more straight crime series as well as cosy crime. Uplit (uplifting literature) is still hitting the mark – a reflection of the need for escapism from the woes of the modern world no doubt – but interestingly we also saw a marked trend this year for more upmarket and literary fiction that dealt with real world issues. So while the need for escapism and happy endings is strong, there is also a drive for books that invite dialogue and make us question the world around us.

There was also a noticeable increase in the number of publishers looking for great historical fiction. A positive shift for us since many MM authors are breaking out in this area, lead by our very own Elizabeth Macneal’s The Doll Factory this May.

In non-fiction, wellbeing and lifestyle books continue to do extremely well, as readers strive for a more balanced, happier self. And the recent trend for big ideas books shows no sign of abating. With more and more readers engaging with political, historical and scientific ideas, there’s a real appetite for books from experts that improve our understanding of key topics. Narrative non-fiction still does well especially where there is a strong personal story at its heart. Our own, With A Whistle in the Dark by Ipsita Agarwal captured lots of publishers attention with its inspiring story of a group of female scientists who sent a rocket to Mars.

A very prominent feature at The London Book Fair this year was true crime. It’s long been an area that has captured readers attention, but there was a marked increase in the number of books being presented at the fair in this area. It doesn’t feel like this is a passing craze and we predict that there will be many more captivating books in this area springing up in the next few years.

We are certainly living through a time of change, and with Brexit still not finalised it’s unclear exactly what the impact of it will be. But for those of us in the business of books the mood remains buoyant. The breadth of books being published hasn’t been curbed by the politics around us, and it’s clear books do, and will, continue to have the power to cross borders and widen perspectives.