Emma Morgan: Frankfurt Book Fair

After attending the London Book Fair in April earlier this year, I thought that I had an idea of what to expect from Frankfurt Book Fair. I definitely did not. While London attracts around 25,000 attendees, Frankfurt has over 280,000. The fair spreads out over 6 halls, some of which I didn’t even manage to see over the course of the week. After weeks of preparation and some frantic last-minute rereading of our books, the Princeton University Press Rights team left behind a very rainy and grey UK and arrived in the unseasonably sunny Frankfurt for four days of meetings.

Frankfurt Book Fair is one of the largest trade fairs in the world, and attracts people working in every sector of the publishing industry, including publishers, booksellers, printers, agents and authors. At the weekend—once the main business of the fair begins to wind down—the fair is also open to the public, and has a wide range of events, talks and attractions. I had been warned that people dressed up and came as their favourite characters during the weekend, but it was still surprising to see, in the middle of a business meeting, two pirates and a princess stroll by our stand.

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Between the three-person rights team, PUP had over 100 meetings scheduled with publishers, agents, scouts and partners from around the world, from France, Germany and China, to Thailand, Ukraine and Finland. We arranged meetings with many of our regular partners and publishers who often license our titles, but also took some time to meet with new publishers and discuss our list with potential future partners, particularly in Scandinavia.

We were able to talk through our titles and hear more about the titles our partners are looking for, the trends they had noted at the fair and the plans they had for their lists. It was also a great opportunity to discuss with publishers, and in particular with our agents, the general state of the publishing industry in their markets. While many noted difficulties in their economic or political situations, there were many reasons for optimism, and a great deal of interest in and excitement about our list.

FrankfurtWe took our biggest-ever Rights Guide to the book fair, with 39 titles. With around 50% of our Rights Guide titles already licensed in Chinese after the International Rights trip to Beijing International Book Fair in August, we were able to highlight some new titles to the Chinese publishers we met with and to show other markets the existing interest. We received lots of good feedback about our list, especially in economics. Publishers were also very complimentary about our covers; we have increasingly received requests from publishers to use our covers in their own editions. The cover for Louise Shelley’s Dark Commerce received a lot of interest in particular. 

FrankfurtIt was also a great opportunity to share exciting new developments from PUP with our regular business partners and with new faces. Many people were interested in hearing about PUP’s new programme of audio titles, and we were able to hear about the markets in which audio is growing and in which it is still only a small portion of the industry. This year, when Frankfurt launched their first dedicated audiobook conference, it was great to hear about people’s excitement for audio in general and PUP’s growing list in particular.

We’ve returned now to full inboxes and lots of following up to do, but it won’t be long until the Rights team will be setting off for the next Book Fair in Guadalajara!

Frankfurt Book Fair by the Numbers

As a global publisher actively expanding our international community, Princeton University Press was proud to send an entourage of 12 staff from the editorial, marketing, sales, and publicity teams to this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair last month. A veritable grand dame of book fairs, Frankfurt lasts over a period of 5 days and this year received 227,000 visitors from the public and trade alike.

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Jenny Redhead, Kim Williams, and Caroline Priday from PUP’s European office

Three plucky, courageous, some might say superhuman (I’ll stop there) colleagues from the International Rights team made the annual pilgrimage to the Buchmesse to share our latest and forthcoming titles with publishers and agents from around the world. The team presented forthcoming books from our Spring 2017 list in our beautifully designed rights guide by Heather Hansen from PUP’s design team.

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We exhausted our ability to speak while talking about our fabulous forthcoming books, so here is a Frankfurt by numbers for those of you who haven’t experienced the magic for yourselves:

  • 4 days of meetings
  • 90 appointments
  • 150 business cards
  • Publishers from 22 countries
  • 14: the highest number of people who turned up for one 30-minute meeting
  • 150 freshly printed rights guides
  • 30 new titles
  • 86 PUP books discussed
  • Umpteen coffees
  • 712: the number of pages in the longest book in the rights guide
  • 4: the number of cocktail parties we missed because we were in back to back appointments
  • 6: the number of copies of Welcome to the Universe that were stolen from the stand on the first day
  • Ten compliments on our fabulous cover designs
  • Three: the number of cheek kisses one is expected to offer to publishers in Europe, except in the UK where a firm handshake is quite friendly enough, thank you
  • One: the number of PUP rights professionals who got lost in the agent’s centre on the way to a meeting
  • 0: the number of times part of the stand fell on someone’s head (take that, Frankfurt 2014)
  • And 1 GLORIOUS lunch hour

What are your favourite book fair moments? We’d love to hear from you!

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–Kimberly Williams, International Rights Director