Pantera Press has been attending the Frankfurt Book Fair since our earliest days, with our first visit back in 2010 with a limited list of books and an even more limited meeting schedule! Nowadays, it is considered an essential part of our Rights strategy, with a full schedule of meetings across four days and an important opportunity to connect in person with contacts from around the world. While I attend as Pantera’s Rights Manager, selling international rights to our titles, this year I was accompanied by one of our Publishers who was exploring the potential for buying-in titles for our list. Apart from our own agendas, it is also inspiring to get some sense of the scale of vastness of the publishing industry around the world, especially when seen through the eyes of someone visiting for the first time.
Frankfurt is still regarded as the pre-eminent Book Fair and the place where you can guarantee that the majority of publishing contacts will be in attendance, which makes it the obvious choice for connecting with as many people as possible. (This year there were 105,000 trade visitors and 4000 exhibitors from 84 countries). Given the expense of the trip, it is also possible to combine it with visits to other territories and connect with other editors or publishers who don’t attend the Fair. After the couple of years of hiatus with COVID, it is reassuring to appreciate the value of being able to meet in person and build those relationships.
Pantera Press has been part of the Australian Publishers Association collective stand for the past nine years (including two years as part of the virtual stand in 2020 and 2021). This is an easy and effective option, with support in terms of the stand set up, shipping of stock, a reception area, WIFI, catalogue entries and collaboration with other publishers. The APA offer a range of options from shared tables through to bigger stands to suit all budgets, and the stand is home to a wide range of independent publishers. There is also a constant stream of traffic past the stand and casual meetings can occur at any time which may well turn out to be valuable connections.
The Fair runs from Wednesday through to Sunday in mid-October, although the trade part of the Fair is concentrated across the first three days (at the weekend the Fair is open to the public which involves some interesting cosplay characters and selling of books from the stands. Most trade connections have left by Saturday morning). Meetings often start on the Tuesday, sometimes at the Fair amid the setting up of the stands, but often at the renowned Frankfurter Hof hotel in the main town where there is the chaos of thousands of people bustling through the main reception area and courtyard trying to connect with the people they are due to meet with. The added interest this year was the hotel charging people a huge amount of money if they occupied a table (even more if they had a sofa) for too long!
The rest of the Fair is at the Messe, or fairgrounds, a little way out of town, but easily accessible via public transport. The English Language publishers are all housed in one Hall, Hall 6, which covers three floors, giving a sense of the scale of the whole Fair. Pantera has a full schedule of meetings with sub-agents and scouts from around the world, as well as publishers who we have previously done business with or have met through the VIP program or other industry events. The day starts at 9am and the meetings are scheduled every half hour through to 5:30pm, when there is usually some sort of social event – such as a stand party or an arranged drink with contacts. There is usually a dinner event and for those with enough energy, there are various parties after that to choose from! All of these are opportunities to make new connections and have discussions which often result in sales.
Apart from general relationship building, we produce a Rights Guide with information on our titles up to six months ahead, which we pitch for potential rights deals depending on the interest of the person we are meeting with. Back in Australia, all of these conversations result in a busy time after the Fair, following up on meetings and sending through information on titles and PDFs of manuscripts to be assessed. We generally have a few titles which attract the most interest, which this year included Esme Louise James’ Kinky history (sold to TarcherPerigee in the US in a pre-empt), James Colley’s comedy The next big thing, Nadine Cohen’s literary debut Everyone and everything, and Dan Marshall’s middle grade non-fiction title, Eww gross (sold to two territories with interest from others).
There are always some hot topics at the Fair – and this year they included an widespread interest in romantasy titles, the impact of AI on publishing, and the difficulty that Dutch (and to a certain extent German) publishers are facing with the availability of British export editions in their market being read locally, particularly by teenagers who will read in English rather than wait for the translation to be available.
Frankfurt is definitely a challenging and exhausting few days, but is also an inspiring and productive way to meet and build relationships that will potentially result in long standing and trusted relationships, and of course sales! We regard it as an integral part of our Rights process and continue to see value in being part of the APA stand going forward.