As many of us know, there were over 25.000 authors, publishers, and agents who were supposed to attend a book fair, where the biggest deals for books would have been made. This was considered as one of the world’s biggest international literary event, and it has been canceled due to the coronavirus fears.
There is also growing anger from the public due to the cancelation and delay, as this was putting lots of people at risk, and it was seen as an unfair financial strain for the publisher. On Wednesday, the Organizer Reed Exhibitions announced that the escalation of the coronavirus means that the fair, which was scheduled to be held from 27th to 29th of March, would be canceled; with over 25.000 authors, publishers and agents planning to come, all around the world.
The trips were canceled
Some say that the event was bound to be doomed when the doors were opened, as the majority of publishers and agencies started canceling their trips a week before the event. This includes some of the world’s biggest agencies, such as Hachette, Harper Collins and Penguin Random House; they already pulled out, together with the host of the literary agency including Curtis Brown and Amazon.
By following the UK government guidelines and paying attention to the advice of public health authorities, the decision was made that it would be best to cancel this year’s event. Most of the bigger authors and agencies agreed with that statement, as they decided to withdraw and cancel the trips. They have stated that the safety of the authors and employees is a lot more important.
In addition, some have withdrawn stating that there was an abundance of caution. Not to mention that Reed has previous to this already stated that one should avoid handshaking, and should stand at least a meter away from one another. On top of that, having an enhancing cleaning and sanitation close to you would be a big plus.
After seeing the big names that withdrew from the event, nobody was surprised by the following statement from Reed. One novelist, by the name of Stuart Evers, compared that walking through the main exhibitionist hall and not being able to see the biggest names in the world of publishers would be equal to begin inside a dystopian future where most of the things have already been wiped by the killer bug.
Should the decision have been made earlier?
Many fans are angry with Reed, because the decision was not made earlier, and that was forcing publishers as well as agencies to do everything privately. With that said, smaller publishers were worried about the loss of expenses of hotels and transportation fees, as the critics were happy to point out that other book events, such as Leipzig book fair and Salon du Livre in Paris had also been canceled.
One senior publishing figure had something interesting to add; Reed is a very profitable and enormous company, which is why it is obvious why they had to cancel in a nick of time because otherwise, they would have taken a major financial hit, even if that was the right thing to do.
“It’s an ugly cat-mouse game they are playing”, as it is purely financial and that is making them look like they only care about money. This is making a lot of their publishers wonder whether they need the London book fair or not if all they care about is the money. Let’s not forget about Frankfurt, which is a big fair on the worldwide calendar. One could say, that because of this decision, Reed has definitely damaged their reputation.
On Tuesday, literary agent Jonny Geller decided to withdraw from the fair. With that withdrawal, they found light in all of this, which is the fact that they will now have enough time to read all the submissions that were submitted by the new authors. “Suddenly we have space! As the fair was built up, agents started to work hard getting everything ready. So, if all of that is gone, what can we do with our free time?” Curtis Brown added.
If the decision was made a bit earlier, that would have allowed all the publishers and authors to find a way around it, and not to be forced to take matters into their own hands. While canceling the fair was necessary and with the time of the cancellation caused them to not lose their profits, was it really worth it considering their overall image afterward?
The real question is whether the authors and publishers will want to return next year. Some of the biggest agencies out there were not satisfied with how Reed handled the situation, because it made them seem like the only thing, they really care about is the money, not to mention that this affected the smaller business even more.
The AWP conference…
On top of everything else, there was a controversy with the decision of whether to go ahead with the AWP conference, which is an annual gather of 10.000+ publishers and writers in Texas, as the public health emergency was plastered on Monday. However, it was decided that the event would go as planned, without handshaking and hugging. Making the environment as safe as possible.
While having a fair without some of the biggest authors, agencies and publisher names would have been a bad idea, canceling the fair in the last minute was even worse. This leaves a lot of smaller publishers to suffer a big financial blow, as well as the bigger publishers.
Many are considering not coming back to the London book fair, due to how Organizer Reed Exhibitions handled the situation. Whether this had a huge impact on how people will do things next year or not, is something we will have to wait and see. However, Organizer Reed Exhibitions have definitely ruined their image, and the bigger authors, publishers, and companies are not impressed.Last modified: March 18, 2020