05 May 2 Seas Agency’s Spring 2022 Eurotour: London, Amsterdam and Paris
By Marleen Seegers and Chrysothemis Armefti — article first published in May 2022
The London Book Fair (written by Marleen)
This wasn’t going to be our very first in-person book fair since the start of the pandemic. We attended the 2021 Frankfurt Book Fair which, although quieter, was an important event for us to attend and a first step towards the good old days of meeting international publishing folks in real life.
Yet the 2022 London Book Fair felt like a new chapter, a fresh (re)start, with a fully booked International Rights Center, cocktail parties, dinners, and drinks in view. And that was something to look forward to!
Both Chrys and I arrived on the Sunday prior to the start of the LBF in order to have meetings with publishers in town on Monday, and to get ready for our full three-day schedule at the LBF. I’d already done a week of virtual meetings at that point, which allowed me not only to get back into full-on pitching mode, but also to ease into the European time zone.
In spite of the war in Ukraine, paper shortages, and high inflation — and in France, the upcoming presidential elections — that had been impacting overall sales pretty much everywhere in Europe, our meetings at the fair were high-spirited. Everyone was simply grateful to be there, to still be there. There was a general sense of camaraderie, and everyone was catching up on professional and personal events that had happened these last 2.5 years.
Of course, Covid-19 had not yet left the building, even though most of the time when looking around in the IRC it looked like it had. The alternative, ‘pop-up’ Leipzig Book Fair had taken place not long before the start of the LBF and several German publishers were notably absent. Our schedules were shuffled around quite a bit, with many last-minute cancellations due to illness, while new meetings were taken on the spot. This was something we got used to quite easily, and I believe this will be the status quo at book fairs and other international in-person events for the next couple of years.
Besides Chrys and myself, not many other people were wearing a mask at the LBF — except for the Americans, who had to get a negative test before being able to board the plane back to the US. But even wearing a mask didn’t do the trick for me: after a bit of a throat ache (which is really quite usual, after a couple of loud days of non-stop pitching), I tested positive…
Amsterdam: virtual meetings in quarantine (written by Marleen)
I was looking forward to my stay in Amsterdam. Not only was I to see many Dutch publishers at their offices again, but I was also going to attend THE annual Dutch publishing event: Het Boekenbal. This gala evening, which I last attended at the eve of the first lockdowns in March 2020, rings in the yearly ‘Boekenweek’, a special, 10-day event organized by the CPNB (“Collective Promotion for the Dutch book”). (You can find further information about this event in this post from spring 2019.)
Unfortunately by then I was already isolating, which I continued to do throughout my week-long stay in Amsterdam. Luckily I only had mild symptoms and, more than two years into the pandemic, everyone is by now used to having to pivot to virtual at the very last minute. So I managed to conduct most of my meetings at a safe distance from my isolation room in Amsterdam. It wasn’t as much fun of course, and I look forward seeing everyone again in person this fall!
Chrys: 2 Seas Agency Returns to Paris (written by Chrys)
“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man [woman], then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast” — Ernest Hemingway
After attending the London Book Fair, I returned to Cyprus while Marleen traveled to Amsterdam to pursue her meeting marathon. We both finally arrived in our beloved city of Paris on April 18th, after three years of absence for me.
Paris was the place to be this April. We had meetings with editors, our clients, and scouts in beautiful cafés around the city, at the Paris Book Market (a very well-organized speed-dating event between French rights sellers and international publishers), and the unique new Festival du Livre at the Grand Palais Éphémère.
Meetings on the eve of the Presidential Elections
While Marleen focused mostly on meeting our clients and French scouts, I spent my week meeting French editors at their offices, or in iconic cafés in Paris such as Café Les Editeurs, Le Hibou, and Café de Flore. In between meetings I walked around avoiding the metro, passing through popular sights, and enjoying the spring blooms.
Publishers were ready to finally have in-person meetings after the virtual encounters the last few years, welcoming us warmly into their offices, and gladly joining us in cafés. Life seemed to be back to normal in Paris with its busy café terraces, except for the obligatory masks on public transportation (to my relief!). The primary subjects of conversation with French editors were the war in Ukraine (sadly), and the upcoming French elections.
The French book market has suffered in terms of sales since the beginning of this year, but publishers were positive that people will go back to reading after the end of the elections, instead of spending time watching the news. Despite a drop in sales during the pandemic lockdowns the last few years, the turnaround of the French publishing market managed to remain stable, though with some fluctuations. Literary fiction is still selling but it all depends on the author, the subject of the book, and sometimes the original language. For some publishers, books translated from Italian are selling better, others are focusing on authors who write in Spanish, English, and other languages. Nonfiction titles keep selling as usual, but publishers prefer to focus mostly on local authors. Everyone agrees that working in publishing requires strong skills for adaptation to the reading trends.
Paris Book Market
The first edition of the Paris Book Market, organized by the BIEF (Bureau International de l’Édition Française), took place on April 21-22 at the Galerie Joseph in the beautiful Marais neighborhood, coinciding with the Festival du Livre de Paris. Nearly 130 French and 170 foreign publishers met to discuss books and foreign rights, face-to-face — not virtually anymore!
This year’s Paris fellowship brought 70 publishers from various countries including the US, Turkey, Canada, and India, but the majority were European. The ambiance at the Galerie Joseph was lively and joyful. The space was 6 times bigger than what the BIEF usually occupied at the Paris book fair. Publishers and agents had tables on both floors. A lot of foreign publishers didn’t attend the London Book Fair so for most of them, this was their first in-person meeting in three years. Foreign publishers were happy, attentive, and very interested in French books, and we were excited to see people we didn’t see in Frankfurt last fall, or London a few weeks earlier. We also had the chance to meet new editors and discover newly founded publishing houses from different countries.
Festival du Livre de Paris, a unique event
Formerly known as the Salon du livre de Paris, this year’s edition where India was the guest of honor took place in the Grand Palais Éphémère under the name Festival du Livre de Paris. The festival featured book signing sessions and conferences at the Grand Palais Éphémère, and free off-site events in other prestigious places in Paris. The Grand Palais Éphémère, a unique temporary exhibition center, was created to house shows during the ongoing renovations of the Grand Palais for the 2024 Olympics. The latter used to be the location where the original Salon du Livre Paris took place some 40 years ago.
Marleen and I went to the Festival du Livre on Sunday, the day of the last round of the Presidential Elections. We expected the fair to be rather quiet, as it also coincided with the start of the Parisian Spring holidays. To our big surprise, the place was packed. Despite its small size, the Festival du Livre received over 90,000 visitors and 1,000 authors, and featured 1,200 book signings, 300 publishers, and 250 author conferences.
The new location was aesthetically pleasing, reserving a warm welcome to readers who loved strolling around the beautifully organized stands. The perks of having professional meetings at the fair gave me access to the Exhibitors Lounge on the mezzanine floor, with a very instagrammable view of the festival, the Champs-de-Mars, and the Eiffel Tower!
With over 100,000 books sold in just three days, the festival is considered a success. But the sales controlled by booksellers, instead of the publishers themselves, left a bitter-sweet mark on both parts. Visitors had trouble finding booksellers on site to ask questions, and the centralized payment centers at the exit saw long queues. There are definitely things to be learned from this year’s edition; yet overall it was a successful festival and we are looking forward to next year’s edition, which will be hosted at the Grand Palais Éphémère once again.