The Blagger's Guide To...The London Book Fair

'Horrific news - no sandwiches in the press room'
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The Independent Culture

*With more than 1,600 exhibiting companies from 58 countries including Turkey, Iran and Kuwait, and about 23,000 attendees (42 per cent of those from overseas), the London Book Fair can appear to be daunting to the average Joe Public. OK, it is daunting, full stop. But it's not all industry jargon, feverish networking, and seminars with names like "Code Mantra: Metadata Management and Distribution Made Easy". Sometimes, it's quite exciting, too.

*LBF is celebrating its 40th anniversary. The first fair was held in the basement of the Berners Hotel, off Oxford Street, in 1971, with 22 exhibiting publishers. This year, the British Council's "Market Focus" placed a spotlight on Russian literature. The Russian Pavilion was the largest to date, with more than 60 major publishers.

*At last year's fair, the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland prevented many of the international delegates from reaching London. Even Tony Blair missed a lavish reception at Kensington Roof Gardens with all his international publishers.

*At Tuesday evening's party at the Roof Gardens to launch the fair, guests were even more than usually grateful to the British Council for its Russian focus. Amid the flamingos, guests were offered Russian-influenced canapés, and chilled vodka. Could this explain the tales told by one guest, who claimed to have been at a recent reception at the Russian embassy at which (she insisted) Ferrero Rocher were served?

*If last year's fair was remembered as the Volcano Fair, then this year's, held again at London's Earls Court Exhibition Centre, rapidly became thought of as the austerity book fair. Some delegates were horrified by the news that there were no sandwiches to be had in the press room, but there was a stampede when a rumour got out (courtesy of an Australian publisher, we hear) that they were handing out whisky at the Scottish publishers' stand.

*Publishers at the Verso stand were looking forward to May's launch of Ross Perlin's Intern Nation, a timely exposé of the exploitation of unpaid labour in coveted job markets. More timely than they knew, since the seminar "How to Get Into Publishing" was going on at the same time, with some industry insiders extolling unpaid internships as the best way to get ahead, and others excoriating the practice.

*The weirdest deal of the week has to be Constable & Robinson's acquisition of UK and Commonwealth rights to The Will Self Murders, a "striking" debut by Samantha Mills. It is billed as "a dark novel which aims to be the literary equivalent of Being John Malkovich – with Will Self as the centre of fascination". Has its author been offered membership of the shadowy Will Self Club yet, we wonder?

*Other notable deals: the "unexpurgated, brain-jangling" memoirs of Aerosmith's Steven Tyler, for HarperCollins; HarperPress's acquisition of both a history of music hall by the former PM John Major, and a biography of Charles Dickens by the actor and national treasure Simon Callow; a biography of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore called One Leg Too Few (Cornerstone); Roger Moore's guide to the cars, gadgets and girls of James Bond, to Michael O'Mara; Tweeting the Universe, by the brilliant science writer, Marcus Chown, to Faber; a life of Steve Jobs, to Little, Brown; and a fiction title called Gypsy Wedding, which will be published by Arrow in August. Told you it wasn't all about boring metadata.