Rights Watch: Rio’s Biennial Book Fair Prepares Its Agents & Business Center

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

‘The results from the first half of the year point to modest growth’ in Brazil’s beleaguered publishing market, says Marcos da Veiga Pereira in the run-up to Rio’s book biennial and its work with Frankfurter Buchmesse on rights trading.

At the 2015 Rio Book Fair, a biennial event that this year will have its second Agents & Business Center in cooperation with Frankfurter Buchmesse. Image: Bienal do Livro Rio, Leandro Martins

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘A Variety of Publishing Companies’

The 18th biennial Rio Book Fair runs August 31 to September 10 at RioCentro, and has become a key event for many literary agents and publishers, including those from Europe and the United States.

As Publishing Perspectives has reported, Rio will host its Agents & Business Center in cooperation with Frankfurt Book Fair, for a second time. The program was inaugurated at the 2015 iteration of the fair, and it’s modeled on Frankfurter Buchmesse’s Literary Agents and Scouts Center (called the “LitAg”), with tables for agents and publishers to rent and hold meetings.

Rights professionals have noticed that “the Brazilian market has been impressive in bolstering the success of foreign authors,” according to Marcos da Veiga Pereira, who is president of the country’s National Union of Book Publishers, referred to as SNEL in Portuguese (Sindicato Nacional dos Editores de Livros).

“This makes Brazil an interesting focus for international publishing,” he says.

SNEL promotes the fair in partnership with Fagga | GL events Exhibitions. And this year, of course, publishing professionals gathering for the show will hope to learn more about where the Brazilian market is today. As has been widely covered, Brazil is a major publishing player on the international stage, undergoing a severe downturn in the past few years during the country’s economic turmoil.

Amid preparations for the book fair, Pereira is in a particularly good position to observe the dynamics of the Brazilian market. The grandson of one of the founders of SNEL, Pereira has served on its board since 2003. With his brother Tomás and father Geraldo Jordão, Periera founded Editora Sextante, one of Brazil’s leading publishing houses.

We’re glad that our Buchmesse colleagues working with the Rio Agents & Business Center have been able to put some questions to Pereira ahead of this year’s event, and we begin with his overview of what financial realities may be in place at this point.

‘Finally Showing Signs of Improvement’

Publishing Perspectives: Could you briefly comment on the scenario of the Brazilian publishing market?

Marcos da Veiga Pereira

Marcos da Veiga Pereira: After two very difficult years, when book sales in Brazil fell by 20 percent, 2017 seems to be finally showing signs of improvement.

The results from the first half of the year point to modest growth, with a 5-percent volume increase and 6.5-percent growth in revenue, higher than inflation for the first time. These results look even better when we consider that there was no major publishing phenomenon during the period.

PP: What are the main challenges for the publishing industry in the country?

MP: The first great challenge is the low rate of reading in Brazil.  In a country with a population of 200 million, our per-capita book consumption is probably the lowest in Latin America.

Furthermore, we have very few points of sale in proportion to the size of the country, and they are heavily concentrated in state capitals and big cities.  This keeps the publishing companies from gambling on producing cheaper editions for lower income populations.

PP: Does the 18th edition of the Rio Book Fair have a special slogan?

MP: Yes, the 18th edition of the book fair celebrates the value of books and reading in the country. With this goal in mind, we’re launching the Leia-Seja (Read-Become) campaign, which involves testimonials from many prominent Brazilians on the importance of books in their lives.

PP: How do you see the fair’s role in promoting relationships among publishing professionals from many parts of the world?

“The first great challenge is the low rate of reading in Brazil.  In a country with a population of 200 million, our per-capita book consumption is probably the lowest in Latin America.”Marcos da Veiga Pereira

MP: Brazil was a highlight of the publishing market between 2008 and 2014. That, in turn, resulted in the fair becoming an important event for agents and international publishers, especially in the US and Europe.

The economic crisis led to a decrease in business and lower royalty payments, which were also impacted by the currency devaluation. However, the country has proven that it can still manage great results at the international level with authors such as Dan Brown, John Green, and George R. R. Martin.

We also have a variety of publishing companies, so all these factors contribute to maintaining international interest in Brazil.

PP: In addition to the Agents & Business Center, there’s a conference program called InterLivro at the fair again this time.  What important issues affecting the market are likely to be debated at these meetings?

MP: Subjects such as the digital book market in Brazil, market access (the Brazilian Inclusion law), and international observations are likely to be the highlights.

PP: How engaged in international literary events are Brazilian publishing professionals today?

MP: Brazil continues to be a major buyer of translation. Our editors are very professional and take trained teams to the fairs, especially in Frankfurt and London.

PP: Hasn’t the German publishing industry offered some guidelines for the Brazilian market?

“Brazil continues to be a major buyer of translation. Our editors are very professional and take trained teams to the fairs, especially in Frankfurt and London.”Marcos da Veiga Pereira

MP: In 2014, we welcomed German editor Joachim Kaufmann as a participant in our international seminar on the fixed book price law.  He presented a very clear analysis of the German publishing market and how it had benefitted from the law. At this point, we’re working on a bill along the same lines for approval in our congress.

I’d also like to point up the progress being made by Metabooks Brasil—a joint venture between the Brazilian Chamber of Books (CBL), MVB, and the Frankfurt Book Fair—which will be the national metadata platform for Brazil. [Coverage of MetaBooks Brasil, an initiative of  Germany’s Marketing und Verlagsservice des Buchhandels GmbH, is here.]

PP: And how do you see the prospects for the Brazilian publishing market in 2018?

MP: I hope the prospects for Brazil as a whole will be positive in 2018.  If we can manage to lower unemployment and bring back investments, then the publishing market will certainly benefit.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.