By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
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‘The Most Distinctive Voices’As we interview incoming 2022 Frankfurt Fellows who will be headed to Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 19 to 23) and their special pre-fair programming with German colleagues, one of the closest to home is Corinna Kroker.
The editorial director in literary fiction for Stuttgart’s Klett-Cotta, Kroker points out that her company has published German editions of titles by some of the most imposing names in the international business, including JRR Tolkien, Stephen Hawking, Bernardine Evaristo, Anna Burns, David Graeber, and more, as well as German writers Ulla Lenze, Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz, and Wolfram Eilenberger.
Our readership will remember a very strong interview given to us last year before Frankfurt by Tom Kraushaar, the Dusseldorf-born publisher of Klett-Cotta whose voice is influential among the Verlegertage group and other independent publishers in Germany and Europe.
Much of the energy and investment you hear in Kraushaar’s conversation is resonant in comments from his colleague Kroker. When told by a reporter that many book professionals in various world markets are continually impressed with Germany’s reliable reading culture, she comes right back: “I’m impressed, myself!
“Of course, I’m also fascinated by countries who value the book and the tradition of reading as France or Iceland for example do. And in my experience, stable working conditions for writers, publishers, and distributors create vibrant and interesting literary markets. Which, in the end, makes international markets interesting for acquisition editors.
“On the other hand, the most distinctive voices often come from places without these stabilities in the production process. Which is why I train my eyes to be open in every direction.”
Following the ‘Publishing Signs’
Kroker says that she came to be involved in the book publishing industry through “pure luck and a bit of stubbornness. I was lucky enough to find myself as an intern at the editorial department of Ars Edition, a well-known German children’s book publisher, while still in school. Ever since, I’ve followed the ‘publishing-signs’ I found on my way through university—more internships, experiences in literary agencies, and in different publishing departments.”
“I’m more than grateful that in Germany we still have this huge number of passionate independent booksellers, who create so many lively book places.”Corinna Kroker, Klett-Cotta
When it comes to challenges, Kroker says that that need to watch less stable venues for potentially valuable material is one. Any editor who’s ever wondered if she or he is spotting the right content in unexpected places knows exactly what she means.
But she also mentions a concern that we at Publishing Perspectives have heard mentioned by others in the German market, and by those who work with German publishers from outside the country. Kroker speaks of “the difficulties of a market that is narrowing and accepts fewer and fewer new voices, especially in translated fiction.”
Here, of course, Kroker’s concern parallels that of so many in the English-language markets, and yet on the flip side, she’s been pleased, she says, to see “a growing openness to narrative forms. Germany is a very conservative market compared to others. But even here, we observe that readers, booksellers, and critics are becoming more open to literary formats that extend an understanding of what a novel has to be. This feels very liberating.”
And while in so many cases, we always ask a Frankfurt Fellow what he or she hopes to take away from her or his time in Germany, with Kroker, the question turns. What would she like to see her associates in the program this year leave Germany with?
“What I really would love them to take home,” Kroker says, “is our wonderful, rich network of independent booksellers, which is different from that of other countries, as far as I know.
“We all know that independent booksellers connect readers, publishers, translators, literary enthusiasts, families, neighbors. I’m more than grateful that in Germany we still have this huge number of passionate independent booksellers, who create so many lively book places.”
At Frankfurt, please join us for the inaugural edition of Publishing Perspectives Forum, a two-day program of leading and influential professionals in the international publishing industry discussing today’s challenges, dynamics, and trends.
- On Wednesday, October 19 at 1 p.m., Tom Kraushaar, publisher of Klett-Cotta will join us in a discussion of the “Independent Publishing Outlook for 2023” with:
- Ūla Ambrasaitė, founder of LAPAS Books in Lithuania
- Wil Harris, CEO, of Unbound in London
- Pei-Shan Huang, publisher at Slowork in Taiwan.
The session is moderated by Porter Anderson and builds on some of the conversations from the 2021 Frankfurter Buchmesse on independent publishing.
Attendance is free of charge for all Frankfurter Buchmesse exhibitors and trade visitors. The program language is English. You’ll find full details and developing news here.
More from Publishing Perspectives on Frankfurter Buchmesse and the 2022 edition of the trade show is here. More on the Frankfurt Fellows program is here, more on international fellowship programs in publishing more broadly is here, more on independent publishing is here, and more on the German market is here.
Publishing Perspectives is the International Publishers Association’s global media partner.
More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.