Editorial from Frankfurt: All You Have to Do Is Ask Around

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka

Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief, Publishing Perspectives

Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief, Publishing Perspectives

“How do you find out if someone is talented or not?” The question was posed by Israeli tech entrepreneur Yossi Vardi to an intimate gathering of people at the Business Club on Thursday morning. “How do you find out the most talented person in the 10th grade?”

The answer should be obvious: ask around. Ask the other 10th graders, and they will tell you.

This very principle is what drives much of the business here at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Conversations often revolve around one simple question: “What have you read recently that you loved?”

And so you tell them. You try to convey the passion that you feel for the manuscript that delivered a total surprise and made you cry; for the book your favorite author just published after an arduous ten-year wait; for the book that kept you up so late last night that you missed your first meeting this morning.

Sometimes this leads to an order from a bookseller, a rights deal, or a great read for the flight home.

When it comes to seeking out talented collaborators, the principle is much the same. Ask around. Networking is the key to an entire contingent of people who don’t have stands or tables in the rights center, who typically work with physical books: the technologists and digerati; e-book evangelists and service providers, whose influence has irrevocably changed the book business forever.

But, I wonder: do they still feel the same passion—the same gleeful zeal—as the book people do in Frankfurt now that so many publishers no longer fear the digital revolution? I wonder, how long will they still be with us now that publishers have resigned themselves to change or, more likely, even embraced it?

I hope it’s for a while longer. After all, I think they too, have a lot to learn.

Unfortunately, it might take some of them getting out of their own electronic bubble and mingling with the print book people a bit more. Case in point: a conversation I had with a technology consultant earlier in the week, went something like this:

“How is your Fair going?”

“Great,” I replied, “How about yours?”

“It’s okay, but nobody seems to have any new ideas.”

“Oh, no…There are thousands, hundreds of thousands new ideas here.”


To which I which I gave an answer that would be obvious to any of the agents, publishers, editors, rights directors and other assorted people whose job it is to work with words, ideas, thoughts and bring them to life.

“Why not try between the covers of a book.”

Each book here has an advocate passionate enough about it to persuade you it’s just what you’ve been looking for.

All you have to do is ask around.

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.