At the London Book Fair, MS in Publishing Students are Part of the Story
May 2, 2023
At the London Book Fair, MS in Publishing Students are Part of the Story
By NYU MS in Publishing Students
“Books are witnesses of what we experience,” said the First Lady of the Ukraine, Olena Zalenska, in her opening address at the 2023 London Book Fair (LBF). International publishers gathered to showcase their books, buy and sell rights, network and learn more about trends and changes in the industry at a non-stop program of panels and discussions. Sarah Andriano, Ariana Juarez, Katie Teas and Danielle Thomas, four graduate students in the MS in Publishing program at the NYU SPS Center for Publishing and Applied Liberal Arts who were selected to attend the fair, witnessed not only an extraordinary outpouring of support for publishing in Ukraine, but around the world.
Gareth Rapley, Director of the London Book Fair, invited the NYU students to support his team at the Tech Center, Sustainability Hub, Focus Theater and more. Sarah, Ariana, Katie, and Danielle were front and center, directing speakers, checking-in attendees, and supporting the success of the fair. They also met with publishers and a top agent, networked, and still had time to explore the city of London. Read on to hear their thoughts on attending LBF 2023:
NYU MS in Publishing Students at London Bridge. From left: Ariana Juarez, Danielle Thomas, Katie Teas, and Sarah Andriano
On the first day of the London Book Fair, I was allocated to the Sustainability Hub, a new feature of LBF this year, dedicated to discussions and presentations on the issue of sustainability in publishing and book fairs. At the “SustHub,” there was an ongoing roster of panels and conversations including one on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals Publishers Compact. The SDG Publishers Compact was launched in collaboration with the International Publishers Association (IPA) to achieve the UN’s sustainable development goals by 2030. It was truly amazing to hear about the work that the publishing industry is doing in order to create a more sustainable world.
Another highlight of the fair was hearing from incredibly highly regarded authors, such as Colson Whitehead and LJ Ross. Whitehead, winner of two Pulitzer prizes and a National Book Award, was the author of the day on the first day of the fair and presented a thought-provoking discussion on his writing process. Ross has sold over 8 million copies of her independently published romance/suspense books worldwide. She spoke on a panel with fellow authors JD Kirk and Clare Lydon, who discussed the role of technology in self-publishing.
Outside the itinerary of the book fair, NYU had arranged time’s for the student volunteers to meet with industry leaders. First, we met with HG literary partner Josh Getzler, who was having a meeting with a distinguished, British editor. We sat in on this meeting, a real-world demonstration of how networking and deals begin to form in the setting of the LBF. Then, we met with Judith Curr, publisher of HarperOne, Amistad, and HarperCollins Español, at HarperCollins Publishers. Curr presented us with a compelling overview of what draws a publishers to book fairs like this, and also gave us an inside look at how her group works with international editors in order to create beautifully translated books. Finally, we met with Bryn Clark, executive editor at Flatiron Books, who gave us the perks and role of book fairs from an editor’s perspective. LBF provided an opportunity for Clark to meet with the other editors working on the book in different countries. In her case, she is editing Elliot Page’s upcoming memoir, Pageboy, which was acquired by publishers in multiple different countries for a simultaneous release.
Katie is in her final semester at NYU’s M.S. in Publishing program. She works as an assistant publicist at HarperCollins Publishers and plans to continue her career path in book publicity.
For most of my time at LBF, I was stationed at the Tech Theatre, where I learned about the latest trends in media and tech ranging from BookTok to ChatGPT. Laura Summers of BookMachine presented a seminar about influencer marketing that I found to be quite compelling, having a personal interest in marketing and media at large. Titled ‘How to Create a Successful Marketing Campaign, the seminar presented an overview of successful marketing tactics, similar to the principles we had learned in our Introduction to Marketing and Branding graduate course. Summer explained the importance of influencers in this climate and the rise of Bookstagram and BookTok. She noted that there has been a 465% increase in the search term ‘influencer marketing’, illustrating the potential utility of social media in our culture.
David Kaefer, Vice President and Business Head of Global Affairs at Spotify, participated in a panel discussion regarding global audio publishing opportunities. The publishing industry in itself is constantly evolving, and with technology taking a bigger role in everyone’s lives, Spotify recently entered the audiobook space. Kaefer felt that through audiobooks, Spotify would enhance its customers’ user experience and meet a growing demand.
In addition to these conversations, I had the opportunity to sit in on author panels, literary agency conversations, and learn from publishers and international rights specialists about the importance of international book fairs in the publishing industry. Europe has become a leader in translation rights, and participating in the London Book Fair was a wonderful way to witness how worldwide publishers achieve success.
Sarah is currently a second-semester digital-media publishing master’s student at NYU, and a 2022 graduate from Pennsylvania State University. Currently, Sarah is an intern working in social media strategy and media planning, and hopes to work in marketing and branded content upon graduating this December.
NYU MS in Publishing Students meeting with Judith Curr, President and Publisher of imprints HarperOne, Rayo, HarperCollins Español, and Amistad, divisions of HarperCollins.
Of all the tasks we had at the London Book Fair, I did not expect my first task to be escorting the Ukrainian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Vadym Prystaiko, into Olympia and to the Focus Theatre. There, the First Lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, gave a video address emphasizing what I think lies at the heart of this year’s fair: “Books are witnesses of what we experience.”
Ukraine was named as the Guest Spotlight country of the year. During the “Welcome Guest Spotlight Ukraine'' session, I learned about the immense support that the UK has been giving to Ukraine in order to preserve and promote Ukrainian voices while they endure an ongoing conflict. Thousands of books, over 528 libraries, and multiple warehouses have been destroyed during the war. In response, the UK has published 16,000 Ukrainian books and provided them to both their citizens and Ukrainian refugees displaced last Summer.
From sitting in on a panel about African publishers hoping to publish more non-academic, affordable print books in their respective countries, to hearing about the importance and weight that accompanies translating international non-fiction and non-fiction-inspired works into English, it was incredible to be a witness to these sessions firsthand.
Danielle will be graduating from NYU’s Publishing masters program in the Fall, and she is currently working as an author’s assistant to New York Times bestselling author S. A. Cosby. Danielle hopes to eventually work in one of the areas of publishing that interests her: literary agenting, editing, and copyediting.
The most interesting aspect of the London Book Fair to me was learning just how complicated the world of foreign rights was. At the Literary Translation Centre, it was fascinating to hear how translators worked, the unique experiences that they shared, and the difficulties they faced when trying to convey the same ideas and emotions from one language to another.
My favorite talk from the Translation Centre, “Evolution of the Translator” featured speakers Susan Harris and Samantha Schnee from Words Without Borders. Harris and Schnee interviewed translator Anton Hurr, who spoke about how he struggled with the pronouns of a book he had translated in the past. By changing it to a different pronoun in Korean, he made both characters gender neutral, and in his words, “queered up” the book even further. Something as simple as a differentiation in pronouns is enough to completely change the context and meaning of a scene.
At the Centre, however, there was an underlying frustration about the hesitancy of American publishers to purchase and distribute books published in other countries. One translator in the audience took the time to vent her frustrations on how she could help her author reach global audiences but had trouble getting American publishers to open her emails. As a member of the audience pointed out, success in one market doesn’t guarantee success in another. Yet, the fact that many other translators in the audience echoed these same sentiments suggests that perhaps it’s time to take notice and recognize the issue. Plenty of publishers have made statements of diversity and inclusion—should this not apply to a diversity of countries?
Ariana is from Somewhere, California, pursuing her Masters at NYU. Currently, she is a bookseller, a marketing intern, and a future production intern for Simon and Schuster. Her favorite activities include reading, stress baking, and exploring the city. Ariana hopes to work in publishing from both the business and creative sides.