London Book Fair: The Aftermath

47158_FearieTales_JKT.indd‘So how was the London Book Fair,’ I hear you ask. ‘Was a mad social whirligig? Were you inundated with foreign editors desperate to spread the Word of JFB far and wide across the world?’

Well, the short answer is No. And Yes.

I was prepared for it to be a lot quieter this year because probably a third of the people I usually see told me they weren’t coming – but I still managed to fill my days, on the half-hour, every half-hour, from ten till six. It was nice to see some new people too.

But probably my favourite appointment was my Bonus Russian, because it was so unexpected . . .

Stephen Jones, who’s responsible for A Book of Horrors, Fearie Tales and Curious Warnings for JFB, asked if I’d be able to wave hello at some Russians who were interested in BoH and Fearie Tales – he knew I was already booked at the one time they had free, so he would do the sales pitch; he just wanted them to be able to say they’d met me.

‘No problem,’ I said; ‘wheel them in at 3.30.’

But a couple of hours earlier, one of my editors was a no-show (turned out he’d gone down with the Book Fair Lurgy, a nasty bug that invariably runs riot through the hallowed halls of Earls Court and the Frankfurter Messe). I was sitting there quietly, catching my breath, when someone I didn’t know asked if he could look at the copy of Fearie Tales in the window and said in a strong Russian accent, ‘I love Stephen Jones’ work . . .’

Quick as a flash I thrust a Rights Guide into his hand and suggested, as I had a few minutes free, I could talk him through that and maybe a few other JFB gems . . . and we were off. And when he said he worked for AST ­– Russia’s second-biggest publisher – I realised who he was, and said, ‘Of course – you’re meeting Steve later; I’m delighted to have a chance to get to know you properly.’

So we went through the list and he was suitably enthusiastic about – well, everything! A man of taste, obviously . . . We parted with me agreeing to send him everything, and a promise to meet in Frankfurt to further the forthcoming bond between JFB and Mainstream, his list at AST.

I’ve been trying to get back on the Russians radar – books-wise, I hasten to add – for a long time, and this felt very fortuitous. So two hours later, when Steve pops up, I say airily, ‘Oh, I’ve met your Russian, he’s really nice; he’s taken a rights guide and he’s very keen . . .’ and thank him profusely for the intro. But then I turn and actually clock the two men he’s with, and they are definitely not my Russian. They’re both much larger . . . and, scarily, they’re both called Alexander* and not Sergey . . . and they’re from Azbooka-Attica, not AST.

So: turns out there are two Russian publishing houses represented by charming editors at the Fair, who are all mad keen on Fearie Tales and the rest of the JFB list. With any luck we’ll end up with a nice healthy auction and I will be able to laugh away the aching bones, lack of voice and exhaustion that are the other aftermath of LBF.

Right. Time to make my appointments for Frankfurt . . .

*As is Steve’s Russian Rights Agent, just to confuse the issue

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