India is London Book Fair's market focus for Spring 2009

Sudeshna Sen

Whether you're an unknown, upcoming regional language writer or a Manga publisher in India here's one for you. The London Book Fair, one of the world's largest trade events for publishers and the book sellers, has picked India as its market focus for Spring 2009, for the first time. "The big publishers like Penguin and Random House already have a large presence in India. We're hoping to showcase a lot of younger, independent publishers, regional language writers and smaller publishers," says Emma House, head of international development.

A key target segment will be service providers for outsourcing. "It's a growing market for outsourcing publishing, printing, graphics and technical aspects to India," says Ms House. The fair will provide a platform for Indian service providers to sell their outsourcing credentials to the world market. The London book Fair has tied up with the British Council, the Federation of Indian publishers, and Capexil for a six-month series of activities leading up to the fair in April 2009.

The London Book Fair is considered second only to Frankfurt for international rights trading, including translation rights, digital rights and television and film rights. "Besides the large amount of English language publications, UK has a big local Indian population and a lot of libraries and bookstores also stock regional language books," says Ms House. In 2008, it hosted 28 Indian publishers.

The London Book Fair, in its 38th year, draws 25,000 publishers from 120 countries. The market focus programme, in its 6th year now, has in earlier years done countries like Eastern Europe, Spain, and last year picked the Arab world as its market focus. "It was hugely successful, but the Arab world is in a different stage in its life cycle, that was more introducing western publishers to Arab publishers. For India we're looking to expand the linguistic and cultural diversity of Indian publishing," says Ms House.

British Council will handle the cultural aspect, tying up big name writers, workshops and speakers. Alongside the celebrity events intended to raise the public profile of Indian writers, the real business activity will be done in professional and trade areas – LBF is a trade only event, unlike the Frankfurt book fair the main trading floor is not open to the public. The activities planned include workshops for Indian publishers on how to sell to UK booksellers, negotiating for rights trading, and also providing booksellers and other international publishers an overview of the opportunities. And of course, business meetings to sell translation and other rights and so on. Capexil has agreed to give market development grants for aspiring exhibitors.

The big names and cultural events, the organisers hope, will create enough traction to provide a platform for the 'unknown' talents, and showcase little known areas of publishing, like say Manga or graphic novels. Manga publishers in India? "Oh yes, it seems to be taking off, we have some on our lists," says Ms House.
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