Agents tell me international publisher demand for celebrity biographies is dipping. But the reps and publishers I’ve spoken to are quietly confident business overall will be better at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair which opens today – at least compared to the disastrous London market in April. Laura Morris, an independent agent who represents film author David Thomson, says, “There’s a feeling that things are getting better. Christmas books still do well. The interest in Jonathan Franzen’s new novel Freedom shows you can still make a big splash with books.” “Yes, the market does seem to be picking up, but quietly,” says literary agent Julian Friedmann of Blake Friedmann. But fewer people will travel to Frankfurt this year. There are expected to be 5% less exhibitors, with 6,930 stands compared with 7,314 one year ago. And the number of new titles for sale is expected to be down 23% at 309,885. Like the indie movie sector, there’s a concentration on fewer bigger titles. Mike Jones, Simon & Schuster’s non-fiction editorial director, tells me he’s looking for projects easily promoted across Internet, TV, and radio platforms. For example, Simon & Schuster launched The X Factor judge Dannii Minogue’s autobiography last week with a Twitter campaign. He’s also looking for ideas he can turn around quickly: he published a Michael Jackson biography within two weeks of the singer’s death in June 2009, and was just as quick off the mark with a book celebrating England’s Ashes cricket competition win a couple of months later. Sales of consumer books are expected to decline to 1.47 billion this year and to 1.43 billion by 2012, having peaked at 1.63 billion in 2008, according to book industry expert Albert Greco.
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