Confab aims to heat up attendance after volcano cratered 2010

This year’s 40th London Book Fair is expected to bounce back from the disaster of 2010, when volcanic ash from Iceland literally cast a cloud over the event.

With flights grounded across Europe, last year’s fair sustained an 80% drop in overseas delegates. Total vistors (not including exhibitors) were down a third to 8,400, the vast majority from within the U.K., compared to 13,200 in 2009.

A few international delegates made extraordinary efforts to attend last year, renting vans or hopping trains and ferries across the continent to reach Blighty. One group of Italians, who managed to get Eurostar tickets from Disneyland Paris, wore their Mickey Mouse ears around the Earls Court Convention Center as a badge of honor.

But most foreign delegates were stuck in their offices at home, trying to keep up with the gossip and the dealmaking by phone and email.

London-based literary scout Barbara Rozycki believes the pent-up frustrations of 2010 will just fuel more business this year. “There won’t be any knock-on damage, in fact people are twice as keen to buy this year to make it work.”

Ros Ramsay, who reps a dozen international publishers, says some of her absent clients actually did more deals last year because they weren’t at the fair. “All the preparatory work had been done, and they bought more than they would have done, because they were sitting in their offices reading instead of running between meetings. But they all rather missed seeing their chums.”

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