News from the London Book Fair: Trends, Territories, and Take Aways

The London Book Fair was held April 16th to 18th this year. After 16 meetings with scouts, co-agents and editors–where we talked about what was going on in their markets and where I pitched our clients’ books–we got a great sense of what was going on in the international market and what was working domestically and abroad.

Themes of the fair:
Big books are getting bigger

With the midlist shrinking companies are investing in the big books. Books by authors with a track record of success and authors that have a strong following. With book stores shrinking their book space (and filling it with lifestyle items) the books that are picked up by book buyers have to garner major attention. It’s a tough reality for debuts, but debuts have a chance to really break out and shine in this focused environment.

Authors need to be comfortable developing online communities and social platforms

As agents and industry professionals constantly tell aspiring writers an online platform is no longer a choice, it’s a must. With smaller marketing budgets writers need to develop their own communities to help spread the word about their book. So a comfortability with Twitter, Facebook, Good Reads and other sites like Pinterest are important and something editors look for debut writers to have.

YA market is still very active

That being said, there is great dystopian and paranormal fatigue. The YA market is strong abroad and places like Brazil rely on YA romances to crossover as that’s what their readers are looking for. 

Platforms and personality sell non fiction

Unless you have a very specific fresh new angle, fun and personable voice, or controversial subject matter it’s platform that sells non fiction. Big non fiction in the UK is no longer about celeb titles but super celeb titles that houses get behind and expect to sell hundreds of thousands of copies.

Crime, thriller, and women’s fiction are the biggest international fiction categories

A steady market internationally is crime and thrillers. This is being looked at by every territory. Women’s fiction is a bit more particular in that a film deal will push foreign editors to acquire, it can’t be ‘too American’ in that the message won’t translate, and it’s a fine balance in certain territories between how literary versus how commercial the women’s fiction is, but overall international readers are still buying these types of genre fiction.

What did I take away from the fair?

The fair always helps to tune my interests and get prepared for how to sell fiction that works domestically in international markets. As always I’m looking for: upmarket women’s fiction, literary thrillers, YA fiction, commercial literary fiction, and platform based non fiction. I’m always on the hunt for great new voices in fiction! So query me here:

I’ll be posting more in depth about the themes of the fair in the coming days. Any questions about the fair?

Published by Carly Watters

Carly Watters is a SVP, senior literary agent and director of literary branding with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent that develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career. Never without a book on hand she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents and is actively seeking new authors in including women’s fiction, commercial and upmarket fiction, select literary fiction, platform-driven non fiction and select memoir. She occasionally represents children's book projects. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

5 thoughts on “News from the London Book Fair: Trends, Territories, and Take Aways

  1. Internationally they are looking for YA romance, yet here in the US that is exactly what they are NOT looking for. How are writers supposed to work with that?


  2. Hi Carly,

    Love your blog — you must know how much your insights and observations help us aspiring writers! I have a question for you about positioning a novel for a specific genre when querying agents about one’s work.

    I wrote a dystopian sci-fi/fantasy manuscript that was never specifically intended for a YA audience, but I’ve been told by fellow writers that many of the key elements of YA are there:
    (1) A pair of fairly young, twenty-one-year-old protagonists
    (2) Themes that are highly emotional (personal loss, family)
    (3) Writing that is less Orwellian and more Hunger Games
    Although I’m not against YA (I loved novels like the Hunger Games and Blood Red Road), I also liked the idea of an Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Sower type dystopian tale.

    When querying agents, how do you suggest positioning borderline fiction such as this? Does it help to go hard on the dystopian YA angle, because I know it’s popular, or should the writer leave it up to the agent to decide how to position something based on what’s selling?

    Thanks in advance,



    1. Hi John,

      Thanks for reading the blog!

      Firstly, 21 is a precarious age in fiction. It’s not quite YA, and not quite something adult readers will want to look at. Can you either move the age up to mid 20s or down to 18ish? I think you need to make a decision about what side you want to be on. Crossover is good, but it need a home audience first.

      Hope that helps.


      1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Carly. That does help a lot.

        Now that I’m transitioning from writing/editing to thinking about queries, agents, and the publishing market, I’ve definitely gained a greater awareness of both “positioning” and “selling” the work! I will definitely take another look at my manuscript with an eye towards positioning it strongly for either the YA or Adult market.

        Cheers and thank you for taking the time to provide your insight!


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