Denmark’s Bogforum: Bringing Readers, Authors and Publishers Together

In Feature Articles by Marie Bilde

‘Authors who come here know they’ll meet an engaged audience of readers,’ says marketer Mette Holbæk. Denmark’s Bogforum creates a mutually beneficial gathering in Copenhagen.
At this year's Bogforum in Copenhagen. Image: Marie Bilde

At this year’s Bogforum in Copenhagen. Image: Marie Bilde

As book fairs and trade shows work to balance the interests of authors and publishers as well as readers, our story from Copenhagen has a couple of useful suggestions. For example, there’s a half-day stand rental for indie authors. And there’s a publicity partnership at play here, too: the fair’s director, Andreas Nordkild Poulsen, tells us, “We couldn’t reach as many people and potential visitors without the publishers helping us market it.”—Porter Anderson

By Marie Bilde | @MarieBilde

‘In Order To Stay Relevant’

bogforum-logo-linedThis year’s Bogforum—the annual Danish book fair—drew more than 34,000 people to the halls of Bella Center in Copenhagen, breaking last year’s record of almost 30,000 visitors. There were 201 exhibitors at the weekend show, November 11 to 13, most of the exhibitors Danish publishers.

Publishing Perspectives met with the fair’s director, Andreas Nordkild Poulsen, who took on the position a little more than one year ago. The 2016 version of Bogforum is the first fair planned entirely under his direction.

Publishing Perspectives: What do you see as Bogforum’s primary mission?


Andreas Nordkild Poulsen

Andreas Nordkild Poulsen: At the fair, you meet the literature. Immersion takes place at home, but at the fair, you can have a taste of it all. This is where readers meet authors—for the benefit and pleasure of both parties. It’s a public exhibition, and therefore we maintain a strong focus on readers and authors.

Bogforum facilitates this meetup: if we can make many such meetings happen, I consider the book fair a success.

PP: And what was new in the 2016 staging of Bogforum?

ANP: We introduced three new features this year: A dedicated self-publishing area; a children’s book fair; and special programming for schools.

The Danish self-publishing community has long asked for ways for indie authors to exhibit for a fair price and without the staggering amount of work that a full three-day book fair can be for an individual. At the same time, we’ve seen how writing courses have proliferated in these last years, so we know the interest is enormous. In our self-publishing area, authors and micro-publishers were able to rent a small stand for as short a time slot as half a day. The area also had a stage—sponsored by Danish online bookseller—where writers could share tips and tricks and offer accounts of their own self-publishing adventures.

As for the children’s element, I’ve personally wanted to create more activities for children and their families, and this is the reason we offered a children’s book fair this year. It included stages and activities some of which weren’t directly book-related, but all of which revolved around the concept of “the good story.”

This initiative allowed us to give children’s books much better exposure, and at the same time, we attracted young parents who may not have come to the book fair otherwise.

“We’ve devoted one seat on the fair committee for a book blogger. So we get this group’s valuable input on our programming.”Andreas Nordkild Poulsen

PP: As with other media industries, the book industry is subject to considerable change these days. How does a book fair like Bogforum adapt to these changes in order to stay relevant to the audience and to the exhibitors?

ANP: I think the self-publishing area is one good example of how we adapt to and reflect the transformation of the industry.

We’ve also experimented with dedicated “digital zones,” but they’ve never attracted much interest. People are here for the authors and their words—it’s not as much about the “how” as about the “what.”

We’ve devoted one seat on the fair committee for a book blogger. So we get this group’s valuable input on our programming. Furthermore, we’ve arranged special events for Danish book bloggers before the fair, giving them an overview of what to expect this year and finding out what they had to say about the programming.

PP: And beyond the readers’ experience at the fair, how would you like publishers to use Bogforum?

ANP: First, I’d like them to head home with happy authors after a long weekend at the fair.

In addition, of course, I want publishers to feel that our efforts actually helped them sell books. For publishers, a book fair like this is pure marketing. I hope they can see the effect. The best I can do for them is to attract a large number of visitors.

I’ve noticed that publishers today are much more actively promoting their activities at the book fair through social media than in the past. This effort is pivotal for the fair; we couldn’t reach as many people and potential visitors without the publishers helping us market it.

In the self-publishing authors' area at Copenhagen's Bogforum. Image: Marie Bilde

In the self-publishing authors’ area at Copenhagen’s Bogforum. Image: Marie Bilde

‘Nobody Sells a Book Better Than Its Author ‘

Publishing Perspectives also spoke with Mette Holbæk, director of marketing at Gyldendal Publishers. She was in charge of the show’s biggest stand, with two stages and a program of 120 performances over the weekend.

PP: Can you tell us how Gyldendal uses the fair and what they hope to gain from it?


Mette Holbæk

Mette Holbæk: For Gyldendal, our presence at Bogforum is a huge investment. This is where the readers are—it’s a fair for dedicated readers. We routinely decline to have a stand at lifestyle fairs or at magazines’ live events. We concentrate our efforts on the events where our authors will meet an audience of readers and book lovers who admire their work and really appreciate the meeting.

The more readers meeting the authors, the more books we sell. It’s simple as that. Nobody sells a book better than its author does. Moreover, authors who come here know they’ll meet an engaged audience of readers.

As publishers, it’s our job to facilitate these meeting. This is why we have all our staff working themselves to the bone the whole weekend: Gyldendal’s stand at Bogforum is the book industry equivalent of the Roskilde Festival, complete with logistics, the picking up of authors, and a plethora of events.

PP: Do you find that arbitrary discoverability happens at the fair as well?

MH: For a book lover, wandering through the halls of Bogforum with its many stages, conversations and performances feels almost magic. You incessantly stop to think, “What’s happening here?” and chances are you’ll find something entirely new that you like. If you’re lucky, you’ll hear an author you didn’t know read from her work and thus open it up for you.

About the Author

Marie Bilde

A digital publishing enthusiast focused on disruption, infrastructure, globalization, and new business models, Marie Bilde has spent 20 years in various areas of Danish publishing, holding positions as lexicographer, digital editor, and manager of digital production and distribution. Today she works as an independent book industry consultant.