“India is a hugely important market to the global book industry”

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–says Jacks Thomas, director of the London Book Fair in Q&A on LBF International Excellence Awards with All About Book Publishing.

ABP: What were the objectives behind the LBF International Excellence Awards?

Jacks Thomas: The LBF International Excellence Awards recognise the best individuals and organisations within international publishing from academic to trade to digital. As publishing is a truly international business, we felt that it was long overdue for an awards programme that celebrated this and highlighted fantastic achievements from publishing around the world. My colleagues and I are lucky enough to learn about publishing success from our international visitors and exhibitors around the world and we’re delighted to offer this platform to shine a spotlight on the best of the best.

Indeed we were delighted to see that India led the shortlist nominations – receiving more nominations in total than any other country. This included some of the most recognisable names in the Indian publishing community including, HarperCollins India, Penguin India, Tara Books, Feel Books, Motilal Books and Datamatics. We hope that India continues to do so well, showcasing its huge contribution to international publishing.

ABP: How has the response been to the inaugural and the coming Awards? How many entries were received this time?

Jacks Thomas: It’s been great. I’ve been really fortunate to be part of it and see it grow. Carol Kasper of University of Chicago who won The International Academic and Professional Publisher Award last year said, “It’s truly an honor to receive this award, and we appreciate the Book Fair’s initiative in establishing a new means for calling attention to the excellent work being done in our profession.”

Entries are still open for this year’s awards but we are very encouraged by entries so far. It is clear that international publishing has a huge number of original, innovative and often ground-breaking companies which deserve to be recognised.

ABP: What are the qualifying criteria?

Jacks Thomas: The Awards are the UK’s recognition of international publishing industry excellence and have been designed to celebrate achievement across the whole business of publishing. Ten categories are open to international companies outside the UK only. However UK organisations are eligible for 4 awards (indicated by (*)): The London Book Fair Lifetime Achievement Award (*); The Publishers Association Copyright Protection Award; The International Academic and Professional Publisher Award; The International Education Initiatives Award; The International Educational Learning Resources Award; The Bookseller International Adult Trade Publisher Award; The International Trade Children’s and Young Adult Publisher Award; International Literary Translation Initiative Award; The Award for best use of IP across Multiple Media Platforms; The Publishers Weekly International Book Industry Technology Supplier Award; The Publishing for Digital Minds Innovation Award (*); The International Literary Agent Award (*); The Market Focus Achievement Award (*); and Mexico Market Focus Award for outstanding contribution.

Nominations and submissions are sought for each category from international companies, organisations and individuals. Entries will be reviewed by panels of UK judges with relevant expertise in each category.

ABP: How many entries were received from India last time?

Jacks Thomas: As far as leading the shortlist nominations – receiving more nominations in total than any other country- we were delighted to have two winners from India last year. Tara Books for International Trade Children’s and Young Adult Publisher and Motilal Books of India for Market in Focus Achivement both won in their categories. We hope that India continues to do so well, showcasing its huge contribution to international publishing.

ABP: How is the jury formed? Details of this year’s jury…

Jacks Thomas: The juries are formed of panels for each category made up of UK publishing experts with relevant expertise in each category. Judges for this year’s awards include Richard Charkin, executive director at Bloomsbury, Helen McAteer, chief global development officer at Walker Books and Graham Bell, executive director at Editeur.

ABP: How difficult it is to select the winners?

Jacks Thomas: Each award category attracts a tremendous calibre of talented entries – making the selection process very difficult! Fortunately, our judges are experts in their respective categories and know what they’re looking for: achievements which mark out awards entrants as outstanding in their field. This year will be a close run contest and I can’t wait to see who they choose. Stay tuned to find out who has made the shortlist, which will be announced in March.

ABP: Apart from a new venue, what other innovations can be seen at the fair?

Jacks Thomas: We are very excited about the move to London Olympia: an architectural gem and a brilliant modern conference centre. LBF has always adapted over the years to meet the needs of the publishing and rights communities, but it’s important to remember that at its heart LBF remains the most important rights fairs in the world of publishing.

This year we will have increased events and opportunities for educational and academic publishers including the internationally renowned What Works educational conference in partnership with the IPA and the PA.

We’re also really excited about London Book & Screen Week, the consumer facing celebration of the book’s central role at the creative and knowledge economies. LBSW will take place during LBF week from 13-19 April. We’re using the London Book & Screen Week website to bring together the hundreds of literary and film events that take place across London and working with event partners to put on a number of exciting events. During LBSW you’ll be able to watch world-famous authors and screenplay experts speaking at some of London’s greatest cultural venues.

We are very excited about this year’s LBF which will include a host of well-known authors including Deborah Moggach (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), David Nicholls (One Day), and Anthony Browne; as well as a great range of thought-provoking debates.

As well as helping visitors to make the most out of the fair in terms of networking and profile-building, we will also be doing more in terms of exploring the location of the Fair.

ABP: Worldwide, the publishing industry is shrinking. Where is the industry heading?

Jacks Thomas: Publishing is certainly changing but LBF has adapted to the needs of an industry in rapid change, including a number of digital companies born in the last decade, in which time fair attendance has grown considerably. The international publishing industry is certainly diversifying and this is what the LBF International Excellence Awards aim to celebrate. With new forms of content, platforms and ways of reading, it is an exciting time for the industry. There are now more publishers than ever before – and with the growth of self-publishing this trend looks set to continue.

ABP: What message would you like to give to the Indian publishing industry?

Jacks Thomas: India is a hugely important market to the global book industry and we look forward to welcoming our long-term Indian exhibitors back to the Fair next year and we hope to see many new faces as well!

My advice to exhibitors would be keep in close contact with your LBF representative, make sure you follow us on Twitter, and ensure your marketing team are on our key distribution lists so you can benefit from our year-round promotion and the exposure that we can provide to the international publishing community. There are so many great opportunities at the Fair that could really make a difference to your business and we regularly communicate about them. For example, this year we are facilitating one-to-one meetings with Mexican publishers and gaming professionals to name but two initiatives which could help you build new contacts.

My advice to exhibitors and visitors would also be to register for a profile on the LBF website as there are hundreds of events taking place across LBF – some of which you will need to sign up for in advance. Make sure that you do your research so you can make the most of the Fair when you arrive.

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