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London Book Fair 2024: Oppenheimer and Dune, a new book by Harari, a novel by Keanu Reeves, and the rise of self-publishing

Entrance to LBF 2024

The setup of the London Book Fair (LBF) in 2024 differed little from previous years. Upon entering, you, as always, followed a natural straight route between the stands of two monsters, Scylla and Charybdis of the book industry - Penguin Random House and HarperCollins. Together with three other monopolists, Simon & Schuster, Hachette and Macmillan, they hold in their hands the path to literary fame and large royalties. But this year they were neighbored by a huge stand of their new competitor - INGRAM Content Group, an American company that distributes books for publishers.

The INGRAM stand

INGRAM also created one of the leading platforms for self-publishing - IngramSpark. The printed copies you receive through IngramSpark are not as good as other platforms (Amazon,, but INGRAM is expanding , so perhaps their print quality will improve. The fact remains that self-publishing will soon be on par, if not more successful than traditional publishing houses in terms of the volume of books published and sold. And all thanks to writers who want to see their name on the shelf, social networks (especially TikTok), where you can address your readers directly, and readers who are ordering books online. KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) also had a large stand at the fair, as well as and the British platform Troubador Publishing, but INGRAM surpassed everyone in the size of its stand. Fortunately, Penguin and HarperCollins have staked out a central position at the entrance, apparently for many years to come, so this year, visitors were greeted by the covers of books published in the traditional way, beautifully and in huge quantities.

New book by historian Yuval Harari

Fantasy novel by Keanu Reeves

Meanwhile, monopolists are trying to stay on top of the book publishing world. HarperCollins has placed its bets on the popular author Yuval Harari’s new release, “Nexus: A Brief History of Information Networks from the Stone Age to AI”, as well as the sci-fi novel by actor Keanu Reeves (co-authored with a British writer China Tom Miéville) “The Book of Elsewhere". Reeves and Miéville's novel is based on the BRZRKR comics developed by Reeves and his team - BRZRKR is second only to Star Wars in popularity. And now Reeve’s novel is coming out, and a film is being released on Netflix with Reeves starring in the title role – self-publishing can’t compete with this, at least not yet. However, HarperCollins did not stop there - they also released a new book by a culinary guru Yotam Ottolenghi. The book is called Ottolenghi, “Comfort” - short and delicious.

Culinary novelty by Ottolenghi

Nine publishers competed for the rights to “Nesting”, the debut novel by Irish author Roisín O'Donnell. The monopolist Simon & Schuster won. Credit where it's due: not everyone today will risk publishing a debut novel. The synopsis is inspiring: “It is 2018 and Dublin rents are soaring, homelessness is rising and families are being forced into emergency accommodation. For Ciara Fay, home is no longer safe. Eight weeks pregnant with a third child, she knows she can’t stay in her marriage. Her family are in England but her daughters can’t leave Ireland without their father’s permission. This is not the first time Ciara has tried to escape. With no money and no job, emergency accommodation at the run-down Hotel Eden is the only option. But as summer passes and winter closes in, Ciara struggles with raising two children in a hotel room, searching for a home and dealing with an abusive ex. Nesting is a powerful portrait of a woman’s fight for freedom for herself and her children that explores the meaning of home.”

Publishers Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins chose similar covers for their new releases - novels by Roisín O'Donnell and Ellie Keel

HarperCollins responded to Nesting with Ellie Keel's debut novel, “The Four". An Oxford graduate, Keel decided to use her knowledge of exclusive educational institutions and wrote a thriller about students at a prestigious private school. The novel has been compared to The Secret History by the brilliant Donna Tartt. For variety’s sake, HarperCollins also released a range of romance books by serial writers Robin Carr and Susan Mallery. Mallery has more than 140 books, Carr has more than 50, all of which have sold millions of copies. Based on Carr’s novel “Virgin River,” 5 seasons of the series have already been released on Netflix, and a sixth is being filmed. If you haven't yet figured out what to read this summer on the beach, here are their new releases: Robyn Carr, “The Friendship Club" and Susan Mallery, “The Summer Book Club". Men will have to wait for the main novelty of the year: Penguin will release a new novel about the spy George Smiley only in the fall. The Smiley series was created by the late John Le Carré, and the new novel was written by Le Carré's son Nick Harkaway. The cover hasn't been announced yet, just the title - "Karla's Choice" - and the fact that Smiley will naturally have to fight a Soviet spy (Nick Harkaway, “Karla's Choice”, Penguin , 2024).

What was the fair like as a whole? LBF has always served as a barometer of the society, and in 2024 it is apparent that people are tired and in need of therapy. There has never been such an abundance of books on psychotherapy, mental health and positive thinking on the exhibition stands. Let's start with the reissue of the 24-volume collected works of Sigmund Freud, translated by James Strachey (brother of Lytton Strachey, founder of the Bloomsbury Group) - it will be published in June 2024 by Rowman & Littlefield. Why such a surge of interest in Freud? Perhaps in honor of the 85th anniversary of his death in 1939, or the film “Freud's Last Session” starring Anthony Hopkins (released December 2023) may have helped. There are many other “soul-healing” publications - their titles speak for themselves:

  • Donna Ashworth, “I Wish I Knew: Words to Comfort and Strengthen Your Soul" (Black & White Publishing),

  • Chelene Knight, “Let It Go: Free Yourself from Old Beliefs and Find a New Path to Joy” (HarperCollins),

  • Clare Mackintosh, “I Promise It Won't​ Always Hurt Like This: 18 Assurances on Grief” (Sphere),

  • Sam Cooper, “It's OK to Talk: A Practical Guide to Mental Health for Men" (Octopus Publishing).

Interestingly, the last two imprints - Sphere and Octopus - are both owned by the French group Hachette. This is how monopolists create an illusion of diversity and competition in the book market. However, there is still some diversity. Small publishing houses produce original new books, for example, on the topic of “spiritual” cooking - Zuza Zak, “Slavic Kitchen Alchemy: Nourishing Herbal Remedies, Magical Recipes & Folk Wisdom”, Watkins Publishing.

This year was marked by the abundance of books on positive thinking, like Donna Ashworth’s I Wish I Knew: Words to Comfort and Strengthen Your Soul (Black & White Publishing)

New edition of Freud (Rowman & Littlefield)

The stands of big publishing houses, as usual, mixed with stands of different countries. This year Italy, which in previous years had a large stand with the national flag, expanded so much that it occupied the largest space at the fair. Turkey competed with Italy - it was also represented by a whole platform with screens, conference tables and numerous shelving. Traditionally, Germany, France, Poland, and Estonia had large stands. This year they were joined by Romania, Bulgaria, Malta, and Ireland. The stands of Brazil and the Philippines looked bright. The Ukrainian stand this year was designed by the Ukrainian Book Institute under the poignant “Fragility of Existence". The Ukrainian theme was also present at other stands. The stand of Authors Press featured a book about the Ukrainian poet and satirist Pavlo Glazoviy (1922-2004) - Yuliana Kholodova, “Ukrainian Humor from Pavlo Glazoviy.” Haus Publishing presented books by German journalist Jens Mühling about his travels in Ukraine, Russia and other countries adjacent to the Black Sea (Jens Mühling, “Troubled Water: A Journey Around the Black Sea”, and “Black Earth: A Journey Through Ukraine”).

Stands of Ukraine and Estonia

Jens Mühling, “Troubled Water: A Journey Around the Black Sea” (Haus Publishing)

Politics this year was present at the fair in the salon of the English PEN Club, where they discussed problems of refugee and migrant writers, as well as writer’s activism in Iran. But the stands were filled with fashion and photography. Several stands displayed photography albums from the films “Oppenheimer” and “Dune: Part One” and “Part Two.” Escapism among the mass reader has not gone unnoticed, but rather is encouraged by the book industry.

This year film industry featured prominently at the stands

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