Dispatches from the 2014 Frankfurt Book Fair

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photo 1The Frankfurt Book Fair is more than a gathering of industry professionals from around the globe; it’s a miniature technological and cultural ecosystem complete with 8 giant halls of booths, attendees from international publishers and literary agents to digital platforms and international bookstores/distributors, and even a book fair app. Not to mention the thousands of meetings between old friends and the new connections forged within these halls that give a personal touch to the publishing industry. The mood at Frankfurt is a match for the spark that continues to draw readers to bookstores and book clubs, to author events and conventions: the love of books and the desire to talk about them.

My role at the fair was to meet with our accounts who had traveled from the Philippines, China, Korea, Malaysia, Switzerland, and Amsterdam, among other places. It’s a valuable opportunity to put a face to the emails and talk candidly about their businesses and some of the titles we’re excited about.photo(2)

For me, Frankfurt is an exciting place to see the wide variety of platforms and content emerging from groups of people who are brainstorming new and creative ways to reach consumers, and continuing to discover engaging writing and authors.

Booths highlighted current and upcoming titles with LCD banners, posters, fully stocked bookshelves, and rotating signs. Many meeting areas looked more like living rooms or tree houses, with color schemes designed to attract attention.

photo 2Frankfurt is also an arena to share new steps and growth in the publishing industry, as well as important title acquisitions. HarperCollins announced the creation of HarperCollins Germany, Kobo shared the news that tablets were no longer a focus for them, and PW launched the PW Global Rights Report (an email newsletter about international deals and publishing news). Among this year’s big book news: Canongate will publish neurologist David Eagleman’s The Brain, The Borough Press pre-empted Nelly Dean by Alison Case (the events of Wuthering Heights through the housekeeper’s eyes), Faber acquired Grief is a Thing with Feathers by Max Porter, Scribner will publish Angela Duckworth’s GRIT, Knopf pre-empted journalist Michael Finkel’s The Stranger in the Woods, and Random House will publish Emma Cline’s The Girls.

7 Things You Might Be Surprised to Know About Frankfurt Book Fair:

1) The stands are truly impressive. Each is like stepping into a separate world.

2) When 5:00 hits, many booths serve wine and refreshments, toasting their big books and bringing a celebratory air to the fair.photo(1)

3) The size of the fair is massive, especially compared to BEA. There are multiple halls in the huge Messe Frankfurt complex with floors for each of the following groups:

  • fiction/nonfiction, children’s/YA, comics

  • self publishing, audio books, religion, tourism, gourmet

  • academic publishing, education, business

  • German book prize showcase, art books

  • stationery, gifts, publishing/trade services

  • international publishers

  • literary scouts and agentsphoto(3)

4) The 2015 fair will mark the first major change in years; English-language publishers will be moved to halls closer to the center of the fair.

5) On Saturday, consumers are allowed into the fair, with author events and activities much like the recent addition of BookCon at BEA. This crowd of readers focuses mainly on the German publishers, rather than the international English-language publishers’ booths.

6) The Frankfurt program line-up prominently featured self-publishing components this year. Visitors could take tours through the key exhibitions in the self-publishing section. On October 11th, they could experience a variety of panels geared towards the topic, touching on social media, design, distribution, editing, and author testimonials.photo 2(1)

7) This year, Frankfurt had five hot spots set up for visitors to test new digital platforms, apps, tablets, e-readers, and other products spread throughout the halls.photo 1(1)

This article was contributed by YPG member Sarah Woodruff. To learn more about Sarah and writing for the site, visit our Contributing Writers page.

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