Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Gecko Press' Julia Marshall reports on London Book Fair
"What a fair!" was the word at my annual extended lunch meeting at Bologna International Children's Book Fair. For the past ten years I have met two independent publisher friends on the third day to swap notes on good books we have seen - that gives us a chance to shuttle around and see things we might have missed otherwise.
The consensus this year at Bologna was that publishers are being brave again, and producing really good books. There have been some years where it felt that good, original, well-published books were hard to find, because everyone was playing safe and conservative and predictable, which was cause for glumness at my lunch table.
I realised on this trip that I need to build in more downtime - I like for five unplanned magnificent things to happen, but this year I did four days of meetings with only half an hour unbooked each day, and that doesn't allow for many surprises.
But even so, the end of this fair was one of the best - I shared my last meeting with Tara Walker of Random House Canada, as somehow we were double booked at one of my favourite French agents. Technically we compete, so that was fun. Random House Canada publish Kate De Goldi, so I can report that she has a very nice Canadian publisher.
After that, with stands being taken down around me, I called at the Cambridge School of Illustration stand just in time to take their group photo and then whisk 'our' Dave Barrow of Have you seen Elephant? off for a beer with a friend of mine from Sweden who happens to love his book: and then I had dinner with my French friends who brought along their Russian friends, and so I could hear about what it is like to live in Putin's Russia at first hand. "You think that what is about to happen is impossible and then it happens. And that repeats and repeats until you think that anything is possible."
This is a slightly jetlagged version of a book fair, but quite typical.
As always, I shared an apartment with Auckland based children's book agent Frances Plumpton, and Libby Limbrick, Chair of the 2016 Ibby Congress to be held in New Zealand in August. At Congress, the Hans Christian Andersen award will be presented to Germany's Rotraut Susanne Berner (announced at Bologna) and more than 300 delegates from around the world will attend: At Bologna, New Zealand's planning was given the thumbs up by the World Ibby Organisation, which is a huge achievement.
Congratulations also to Book Island which won this year's Oceania BOP award: and to Sam Elworthy for the AUP award for excellence in academic publishing at the London Book Fair, which I attended on the third day of the fair (no lunch). I found the London book fair light, airy and I got quite lost (some of the stands are not chronologically numbered I think).
Apparently the third day at LBF was much calmer than days one and two! On those days I was having lunch, elsewhere. (London Book Fair is more for adults, I think).
But I was nonetheless very pleased with my day, which included visits to BooksoniX, Skillen, other publishers and agents, and our sales and distribution partner, Bounce: and by then I was exhausted, and the stands were coming down again.