Why am I talking about Venice, when myself and my peers at OICPS have recently visited Bologna for the international rights fair?
Because as an introduction to the event Brookes had arranged by complete coincidence for us to meet the author of Stravaganza! What a dream come true.
I’d expressed my happiness at the coincidence on twitter the week before, and Mary responded in turn to say how happy she was that a reader of her books would be at the meeting. In a strange coincidence she was due to meet with Laura Tosi after her jaunt at Bologna, a lady whose lecture I had attended whilst studying in Venice.
Meeting with myself, Laura and Judith in the comfortable business lounge (complete with squishy seats!) Mary Hoffman set the scene and gave us insight into this year at the fair. We discussed her findings and our own. In conversation with The Bookseller, she’d noted that picture books were on the rise. The illustrator presence at the fair was huge, with walls of example pictures and cards coating the lounge, and engaging talks with some key players. There was Big Picture Press a new sister imprint of Templar. Scholastic had a great title, The Snatcha Book in which a little creature snatches away bedtime stories for company. Emily Gravett had a promising next offering, Little Mouse’s Big Book of Beasts. In my wandering I also stumbled upon David Fickling Book's gorgeous cover for Very Little Red Riding Hood by Heapy and Heap at the Random House stand. And Salariya had reissued a childhood classic in Old Bear that had many of us feeling nostalgia pangs.
One of the biggest draws of the fair was Nosy Crow's stand, their bright red display proudly boasting the numerous awards they have scooped up in recent years particularly for their ahead of the times digital content and apps for younger readers. When we walked past them the queue was building up the aisle for the chance to talk to their team.
There was likewise some buzz for several young adult authors, S.R. Johannes’ wilderness thriller Untraceable offering contemporary realism and romance, Walker Books’ Neverending a sinister new romance, and a lot of interest in Hot Key Books list which is expanding from 9 titles published in 2012 to 50 in 2013. They saw success with the crossover appeal of Maggot Moon, creating an adult cover for a new edition, and generated buzz over titles such as The Blue Lady with eye catching cover art adorning wall sized posters. David Fickling Books YA forensic science meets magic book Spellbinder gained a lot of word of mouth and rumours of film interest. US publisher Little Brown still proudly displayed a range of YA supernatural titles like Malinda Lo’s Inheritance and Holly Black’s The Coldest Girl in Cold Town - described as the vampire book you didn’t know you still needed to read. However there was a definite moving away from the previous years' obsession with Young Adult dystopian trilogies.
Barrington Stoke’s rebranded list of dyslexia friendly titles has captured the attention of high profile authors including Michael Morpurgo, Gillian Cross, Malorie Blackmam, Eoin Colfer and more. Their squirrel logo and slogan ‘cracking reading’ gives the publishing house a more approachable feel.
As a whole the industry was moving towards a lot of renewed interest in Middle Grade fiction. Bonnier imprint Red Lemon Press displayed Being A Boy by James Dawson. There was also Emily Diamand’s Ways to See A Ghost, and World War One fiction such as Dog In No-Mans Land. Little Brown also had a number of middle grade fiction titles including the sequel to Chris Colfer’s The Land Of Stories, cover art covered up under sheet paper until it is no longer embargoed. Disney-Hyperion praised Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky, a middle grade book about transgender identity and gender fluidity, a book about issues that tells the story in a way that doesn’t become an “issue book”. R.J Palacio’s Wonder seemingly paving the way for a rise in engaging and stimulating books for younger readers.
We left Mary with lots to think about and keep an eye out for in our walk around the fair. And furthermore she graciously agreed to sign my copy of City of Masks with a lovely message. Maybe one day I will get to publish one of her books, as coincidences such as this chance encounter can happen when you least expect it!