While we extend a warm welcome to all our
publishing friends in Flanders and the
Netherlands here at Frankfurt, please allow me
to divert your gaze a little further to the east–to
Poland, which is Market Focus at the London
Book Fair (LBF) next year, writes Jacks Thomas.
This culturally rich country is both familiar
and unknown. While Polksi sklep (Polish
shop) may be a familiar sight on many UK
high streets–and the Polish diaspora a familiar
part of society across Europe–in the UK our
knowledge of the country itself, and especially
its writers, remains limited. Beyond a few
household names like Joseph Conrad and Czeslaw Milosz,
people might struggle to name five Polish authors.
All of which means, of course, that the need for Poland to
be Market Focus at LBF is greater than ever. Polish publishers
recognise that the LBF is the gateway to the English market and
they want more exposure for Polish writers around the world;
international publishers want the opportunity to hear new
voices, even more so when the Polish diaspora grows all the time.
This will be our 13th year of running the Market Focus
initiative, the aim of which remains boosting knowledge of
Foreign literature occupies a market share of
20.5%, making the country of great interest to
foreign publishers. A debate is currently underway concerning
the introduction of a fixed price system in order to protect
bookshops and introduce stability into the market; and there
are familiar concerns over levels of book readership given the
temptations and distractions of today’s electronic devices.
While in Poland in the summer, I was lucky enough to be
introduced to some of the great initiatives underway to get
people reading ebooks, as well as experiencing some of the
nicest bricks-and-mortar bookshops I have seen. Working with
our partners at the British Council and the Polish Book Institute, I
know that the programme of cultural events running alongside
next year’s Market Focus will be specjalny (special). Publishers
will have the opportunity to meet and hear from a wide range
of contemporary Polish writers who will be coming to London
and taking part in events both in the capital and further afield.
The professional programme, organised by LBF and the
Publishers Association, will provide an essential insight into
the Polish publishing industry and highlight mutual business
opportunities. It will also show the Polish market’s importance
in the wider context of international publishing.
After Frankfurt I am very much looking forward to joining
the fact-finding trip to the Conrad Festival in Kraków, which
leads into the Kraków Book Festival, itself celebrating its 20th
anniversary. The trip is organised by the British Council and
will include booksellers, publishers, agents and festival
directors; it will prove invaluable in the planning and
evolution of the 2017 LBF Market Focus programme.
The Conrad Festival will play host this year to Man Booker
winners Eleanor Catton and Richard Flanagan, as well as
Michael Cunningham from the US and Michael Faber from
the UK, among others–more than demonstrating its status
on the world stage. I am also looking forward to “The Book
Industries”, a series of talks and discussions involving critics,
editors, publishers and booksellers to be held in the wonderfully
named bookstore De Revolutionibus in Kraków.
Meanwhile, the LBF Market Focus Poland bus itself is getting
ready to leave–we look forward to welcoming you on board. ■
Jacks Thomas is Director of the London Book Fair, which next takes place
14-16 March 2017, in Olympia, London.
Go to http://www.phindia.com
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