Roger Tagholm is a freelance journalist and author who has been writing about the book industry for nearly 30 years. He contributes regularly to Publishing Perspectives and The Bookseller, and writes a fortnightly industry round-up for the London Book Fair website. He has written features on the book industry in China, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates, and is the author of Poems NOT on the Underground (Windrush Press) and Walking Literary London (New Holland). He’s the co-author of Walking London’s Parks and Gardens, also published by New Holland.
Tell us what the London Book Fair means to you.
I love the London Book Fair. It means catching up with pretty much everyone I’ve ever written about/reported on/interviewed over the years. It’s a fabulous chance to get a snapshot of the industry in one go – and at Olympia almost in one glance, because you can see so much from the gallery. You get a sense of where the industry sits as you walk the aisles; you can see trends in covers; see how much digital there is; see who’s expanding/contracting – and as you walk, and speak to people, you can get a sense of the wider mood.
You’ve attended a good many LBFs over the years. Which is your favourite venue?
That’s easy to answer. Olympia by a long shot. Olympia is a glorious building: history made glass. When I pass away, my coffin will probably have a curved glass roof.
Who do you most enjoy bumping into in the aisles?
Oh God – that’s a long list! Far too many to mention. To show off I’ll say Tim Hely Hutchinson, because he’s always so generous with his time. Old mates like Andy Hayward, who I interviewed in Kingsley Amis’s favourite pub in Primrose Hill years and years ago, and newer people like the agent Nermin Mollaoglu from the Kalem Agency in Istanbul, and the Lebanese publisher Nasser Jarrous, who I got to know on my trips out East and who has done so much to open up Arab publishing to the West.
There have, in the past, been times when some of the larger publishing players have questioned the value in attending the Fair. Do you think those reservations have gone for good? And if so, why?
Well, if the investment in stands is anything to go by, I’d say those reservations have gone. Hachette’s famous tower is a statement of sorts and the mini waterfall at Hay House was fabulous – neither come cheap, one imagines. However, there will always be questions asked with regards to numbers of staff: who is going this year, who isn’t, that kind of thing. But, of course, publishers all watch each other, and I guess no one wants to be seen to be cutting back because of the message it sends out. And, I don’t know, just as there has been a move back to print, I’m tempted to say there is a move back to face-to-face, except I’m not sure it ever went away. You see, book people tend to like each other and want to chat.
What advice would you give someone attending their first LBF?
Say yes to everything. Keep an open mind. Explore, explore. Check out the smaller players. Investigate the recesses of the halls, those publishers on the edges you’ve never heard of. You never know what you’ll find…