Quick Profiles: ‘Young Talents’ You May Have Met at Frankfurt Book Fair

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Working with six national programs, the Young Talent Initiative at the Frankfurt Book Fair introduces young professionals to the German and international industry.

The Frankfurt Book Fair’s 2017 Young Talent winners pose with Fair director Juergen Boos. Image: Alex Hippisley-Cox

The Frankfurter Book Fair’s Young Talent Initiative brought young talent from Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, the USA , Brazil, and China to the Fair in 2017. We’re pleased to introduce you to some of this year’s selected professionals. —Porter Anderson


By Alastair Horne | @PressFuturist

Chances and Challenges
At each annual iteration of the Frankfurt Book Fair, the Young Talent Initiative programs in various parts of the world send promising emerging publishing players to the fair.

Having profiled Brazil’s Gustavo Lembert Da Cunha (now in the running for a FutureBook “Disruptor of the Year” award on December 1) and China’s Gu Xu in our Wednesday Show Daily at Frankfurt, we have several others to introduce to you today.

Here are interviews with several of the “Young Talents” who were at Frankfurt last week as part of the initiative.


‘Gender Equality and Diversity’

Gráinne Clear
Little Island Books, Ireland

Publishing Perspectives: What does your job involve?

Gráinne Clear

Gráinne Clear:  Little Island Books is an absolutely tiny publishing house, which in my opinion is the best possible place to start out your publishing career, but it also means that my job involves many different roles. My title is publishing manager and art director, so my main job is to oversee the entire process of publishing, from manuscript to finished product.

I’m involved in the editorial process, particularly in substantive editing and in commissioning, and I really enjoy finding gems in the slush pile.

My colleague and I both realized that I had a good eye for how to package and present these books, so I began directing the cover designs and interior illustration, working almost exclusively with Irish artists and illustrators, and have now created a strong visual identity for Little Island of which I’m very proud.

I also manage all the publicity and marketing. I pitch authors and their events to festivals, and articles and interviews to media outlets; I work closely with authors on editing their pieces and making sure the tone is right for different audiences. I organise and manage our book launches, which I try to make a little different to your standard glass-of-wine-and-a-long-speech event, to capture something unusual in the book and bring it to the launch.

I’m also involved in rights sales for our titles, and buying rights to translated titles. One thing we specialize in is translation–bringing books from all over the world to the Irish and UK market–which means I get to travel to the Bologna and Frankfurt fairs every year to find new titles for our list, and to pitch our titles to foreign markets.

Finally, I’m responsible for sourcing and applying for funding throughout the year, which comes from the Arts Council of Ireland and Northern Ireland, as well as translation and travel grants.

PP: How long have you been in publishing?

“While we’ve been seeing a glut of books with strong female protagonists and nonfiction celebrating brilliant women, I also think it’s important to have books talking about masculinity and ideals of manhood, as this is a huge issue for young boys and men.”Gráinne Clear

GC: I’ve been in publishing for four years now, starting with Little Island Books in September 2013.

PP: What do you get from attending Frankfurt?

GC: I meet as many new people as possible: publishing is an industry that grows and thrives on the exchange of ideas and knowledge. We’re working in such a changeable business that helping each other out with advice and ideas is hugely important, and I think it can be very useful to gain insight into how different models of publishing work. We’re all in this together, and all for the same reason of loving books.

PP: What do you think are the key issues publishing needs to address now?

GC: The issues that publishing needs to address will of course be different for every country and for every part of the world, but from my experience in the UK and Ireland I think that gender equality and diversity are currently our biggest issues.

While we’ve been seeing a glut of books with strong female protagonists and nonfiction celebrating brilliant women, I also think it’s important to have books talking about masculinity and ideals of manhood, as this is a huge issue for young boys and men. As my area is children’s and YA, I’m particularly aware that young readers need to be reassured that while women can be strong and powerful, men can equally be quiet and emotional and loving.

As for diversity, this is an issue that publishing is already aware of and the tide is starting to change, but more is needed to start correcting the imbalance. The UK and Ireland are multicultural places, with religions and races from every corner of the world, and they should have access to books that represent them and include them in the British and Irish culture.


‘A Lot To Win in Digital’

Paulien Smeulders
Kluitman, the Netherlands

Publishing Perspectives: What does your job involve?

Paulien Smeulders

Pauline Smeulders: I’m working as a children’s book editor at the Kluitman publishing house in Alkmaar, The Netherlands. I’m responsible for the traffic of all our titles.

PP: How long have you been in publishing?

PS: For five years now. (I celebrated my anniversary last week). I started here at Kluitman after graduating, so this is my first official job.

PP: Which national program selected you for the Young Talent program?

PS: I was chosen by the GAU (the association of book publishers in the Netherlands) and Stichting Elspeet, a Dutch foundation for young people working in publishing.

PP: What do you get from attending Frankfurt?

PS: I meet many of my foreign colleagues and contacts. And I’m focused on the newest trends and possibilities in the digital publishing of children’s books.

PP: What do you think are the key issues publishing needs to address now?

PS: I think there’s a lot to win in digital publishing. But the children’s books sector is still quite traditional.

I think we have to explore and learn from all the new possibilities and see how we can make book publishing more diverse.


‘Convince a New Generation of Readers’

Nina Grünberger
NordSüd Verlag, Switzerland

Publishing Perspectives: What does your job involve?

Nina Grünberger

Nina Grünberger: I’m responsible for press, PR and events at NordSüd Verlag in Zurich, Switzerland. The publishing house was founded in 1961 and has been part of the international children’s book scene ever since.

Our program features picture books from all over the world and includes famous characters such as The Rainbow Fish and The Little Polar Bear. My primary concern is to get media coverage for our books, authors, and illustrators in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. I produce press material, send out mailings, and meet journalists at book fairs (mostly Frankfurt or Bologna). I also organize events like readings or book launches.

Our main direct marketing instrument is the NordSüd magazine, which I compile and edit. It’s issued twice a year. The magazine is for end-consumers but also for bookstores to give away. Last but by no means least, I’m also responsible for NordSud’s social media presence.

PP: How long have you been in publishing?

NG: I’ve been working in publishing for two years. Before that, I worked as a journalist for online, print and radio.

PP: What do you get from attending Frankfurt?

NG: I’m always excited to present our new books to the press and curious about their initial response. This year was special though, as I also took part in networking events. I enjoy meeting people from around the world and am really interested in their thoughts, concerns and ideas regarding publishing.

PP: What do you think are the key issues publishing needs to address now?

NG: We need to convince a new generation of readers of the value of the printed word. We need to explain what makes books so special, how many people it takes to create a beautiful book, how much time, energy and passion are poured into them. Only then they will be prepared to pay an appropriate price.


‘An Urge for Storytelling’

Stephanie Heijtel
Nijgh & Van Ditmar Publishing, the Netherlands

Publishing Perspectives: What does your job involve?

Stephanie Heijtel

Stephanie Heijtel: I work as a junior editor at Nijgh & Van Ditmar Publishing. In brief, my job involves editing the books we’re publishing and acquiring new titles—both Dutch and foreign.

PP: How long have you been in publishing?

SH: I’ve been in publishing for about two years now, first as an intern, but now in my current job for more than a year.

PP: What do get from attending Frankfurt?

SH: Attending Frankfurt helps me to broaden my perspective on the current international book market and to get a good impression of the international up and coming titles and trends. Also, I aim to build and expand my international network. And of course, I hope I always hope to raise enthusiasm for some great titles that Nijgh & Van Ditmar have just published.

PP: What do you think are the key issues publishing needs to address now?

SH: I think the key issue publishing needs to address now is to think of a way to keep a great deal of consumers buying and reading books in the long run, with so many competing–perhaps on the surface more compelling–forms of leisure activity just a few clicks away.

We need to keep thinking about how we can use new media to continuously reach and activate a large audience, and prevent the literary novel from possibly even becoming a niche and something elite.

People will always have an urge for storytelling, and we need to make sure they’ll see or continue to see the novel as an appealing and accessible form to fulfil this urge.


‘So Much Entertainment’

Merel Poldervaart
Uitgeverij Q, the Netherlands

Publishing Perspectives: What does your job involve?

Merel Poldervaart

Merel Poldervaart: I’m an editor at Uitgeverij Q. Our list consists of a mixture of Dutch and foreign authors.

For the Dutch books, I get to work with the author and provide edits to the text where necessary. I keep track of all the titles that are currently in production, to make sure everything is where it needs to be and is still on schedule.

I’m also in charge of acquisitions for our YA list, which is super fun to do.

PP: How long have you been in publishing?

MP: I started as an intern in 2010. I’ve been an editor at Q for two-and-a-half years now.

PP: What do you get from attending Frankfurt?

MP: I’m really excited about finally getting to meet people I’ve only spoken to via email until now. It’s great to get to see them face-to-face, to get to know them and to be able to hear their enthusiasm about their favorite new titles.

PP: What do you think are the key issues publishing needs to address now?

MP: I think the main thing will be that we must make sure that we can keep competing with all the screens and devices that are currently also vying for people’s attention.

There’s so much entertainment available everywhere, we need to make sure people will always realize how amazing books are, so we don’t get edged out.


Another Young Talent Initiative participant, AmazonCrossing’s Gabriella Page-Fort, was named the United States’ PW Star Watch ‘Superstar’ and you can read about her in our coverage here.

About the Author

Alastair Horne

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Alastair Horne has served Cambridge University Press for more than a decade in roles including Innovation Manager and Social Media and Communities Manager. He speaks regularly at industry conferences, and was the author of the 2011 Media Futures report on the Future of Publishing. Outside the office, he is researching a doctorate on novels about novelists and blogs intermittently.

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