9 Tips for a Memorable 2015 Frankfurt Book Fair

In Feature Articles by Edward Nawotka

Frankfurt Book Fair 2015

PP Editor-in-Chief Edward Nawotka’s idiosyncratic list of 9 tips to help you make your time at the 2015 Frankfurt Book Fair even more memorable.

By Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief

Edward Nawotka

Edward Nawotka

Getting prepped for the Frankfurt Book Fair? I hope so. Frankfurt can be an overwhelming experience, so I’ve compiled a list of nine of my top activities in Frankfurt as a bit of a “cheat sheet” to this year’s fair. And don’t forget, if you have a great story to tell related to the Fair — let me know — and we’ll consider it for our Publishing Perspectives issues leading up to the Fair and for our Show Dailies (where you can advertise as well).

1. The Markets: Global Publishing Summit is a co-production of Publishing Perspectives and the Frankfurt Book Fair and, in a word, it promises to be spectacular. The Markets is offering the chance to network and gain best practices from scores of experts from SEVEN essential publishing markets for 2015. It’s here that you’ll find the people who can make things happen for you in China, Korea, Mexico, Indonesia, Germany, Turkey and the United States, all in one place.

2. As part of the Business Club, you can beat the opportunity to get one-on-one consulting from Lynette Owen, perhaps THE most experienced book rights expert in the world today. She literally wrote the book on negotiating book rights.

3. Another featured session at the Business Club, “Learnings from the Best PR Flops” with a trio of German-language public relations pros sounds like it is going to be fascinating. Honestly, who doesn’t like to see pros fall on their face once in awhile? In a world where books struggle to get mindshare against video games and coloring books, we can use a heady dose of outrageous thinking. And as we all know, if you don’t fail once in awhile, you’re not trying hard enough!

3. Seleamat Datang Indonesia! In the late 1990s, I spent nearly a year working in Jakarta as a journalist and it was one of the most exciting times of my life. The culture of Indonesia is rich, diverse, and intriguing and it it should make for one of the most memorable and exotic Guest of Honor presentations the book fair has seen in years. I’m especially interested to hear from many of the young female authors who are coming, such as Ayu Utami and Laksmi Pamuntjak, which is proof that women’s voices can be hear loud and clear, even in the most populous, predominantly Muslim nation in the world.

4. France and Belgium: The French know books, and while they might not go in much for book design when it comes to literature, which they largely publish with uniform white covers, texts and modest jack wraps, but they DO make the most beautiful graphic novels in the world, on a diverse array of subjects. I always make time to browse through their stand and see what’s new from Glenat, Dargaud, Casterman and Delcourt and other publishers from France and Belgium. Look for them in Hall 5.1.

5. Analytics companies are beginning to analyze texts and data even more closely to understand not only what is in a book but how it feels to readers. Two companies I’m keeping an eye on are Trajectory from the United States (Hall 6.0 C59), which is doing a large amount of work with China, and Tekstum from Barcelona (Hall 6.2 D24), which is bringing similar analytics insight to the Spanish-language markets.

6. Frankfurt’s Invitation Program is always fascinating and this year features companies from as far afield as Burkina Faso, Cuba, Bolivia, Algeria and the Philippines. Often these are young up-and-coming companies who are pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable in their respective nations, and represent the next generation of publishers that will be prominent in Frankfurt in years to come. They are eager to talk and might just have something special for you that no one has seen before.

7. As an English-language reader, I’m always fascinated by the books available in the stands of countries like Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Canada, countries that publish books in my native language, but with roster of authors I’m unfamiliar with…for me, there are always genuine discoveries, especially from the independent publishers from those countries, like Coach House Books or Biblioasis from Canada (which have four Giller Prize long list nominees between them) or New Island Books and The O’Brien Press from Ireland.

8. Alcohol: When visiting Frankfurt, it is helpful to know where to go to have a drink for that discreet meeting or surreptitious negotiation — somewhere that is not the Frankfurter Hof. For a proper cocktail and some hip atmosphere, seek out The Parlour. And if you see me there, please do offer to buy me a drink to say thanks for the tip (!).

9. And a word of advice, if you’re going to drink, be sure to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. And if you’re more inclined to drugging yourself on caffeine instead of alcohol, be sure bring your own reusable coffee mug. No one should have to drink coffee or tea out of those flimsy disposable plastic cups that all but melt in your hand when filled with a boiled beverage. Added bonus: Check out literary agent Marleen Seeger’s top four tips for surviving Frankfurt with your health intact. 

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.