Can you tell us a bit about what Frankfurt Book Fair is? What happens there?
The Frankfurt book Fair has been running for 75 years and it’s the largest book fair in the world. To give you a sense of scale, this year it attracted 105,000 trade visitors from 130 different countries. It’s a place where publishers, rights managers, agents, scouts, distributors, translation agents and other bookish types meet and trade. The fair is held at the exhibition grounds of Messe Frankfurt, a bewilderingly large “city within a city”. Attendees meet at tables, stands and cafés in the many different halls. Meetings are generally scheduled in half-hour slots and run all day. The book trade has access to the fair from Tuesday-Friday and then it opens up to the general public for the weekend. The international community scatters, then, and the halls are taken over by German teens decked out in elaborate cosplay.
The Frankfurt Book Fair turned 75 this year!
What’s the point of a small, Melbourne-based publisher like us attending an event like that?
Black. Inc. has a strong and vibrant local list for the Australian market, but we also publish titles with international appeal. Attendance at the fair is important for our books and authors to ensure the greatest possible opportunities for them in the English language, in translation and in audio editions. Attendance at the fair is the best way to create new contacts and build on existing relationships. Through participation in book fairs we’ve been able to launch the international careers of authors such as Anna Krien, Alice Pung and Oslo Davis. It has also enabled us to acquire rights to overseas titles and introduce Australian readers to a range of authors including Peter Wohlleben and Jenny Odell.
Hall 6 – the English-language publisher stands.
Drinks at the Australian stand.
What was your schedule like over there? Did you get to relax and see the sights at all, or was it a blur?
My schedule was very busy. I flew in on the Monday and two hours later I was at the Frankfurter Hof taking pre-fair meetings. I ended up with 55 meetings, three dinners and three drinks receptions over five days. So no sight-seeing for me, and blur is exactly the word. The key to survival at the fair is taking careful notes for following up later, but it all happens so quickly some of the notes can get a little cryptic – i.e. in one of my delirious moments I penned this gem: “send algorithms to C”. Huh?
The Frankfurter Hof, where people take pre-fair meetings on the Monday and Tuesday.
What’s happening in the international book world? Did anything surprise you to see?
It’s been a challenging time in publishing, with the pandemic, wars and now copyright and other threats posed by AI. Still, most territories reported some economic recovery compared with last year (though not my Czech agent who told me that the trade of second-hand books is now eclipsing that of new releases). Translation opportunities in Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavia are narrowing due to so many people preferring to read in English. In contrast, there seem to be more opportunities than ever (at least for our list) in other territories including Hungary, Türkiye, Brazil, Taiwan, Japan, China and – amazingly given the current situation – Ukraine. On a side note, I was surprised and delighted to see there has been a French translation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart published by Synchronique Éditions.
One of the most surprising books Sophy saw at the fair – a French translation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
So – was the fair a success? Did we make any big sales? Did we purchase rights to any international books?
It was a very successful fair. Some early translation deals have already come through, which is unusual! Normally I go through the process of submitting manuscripts after a book fair and then I have to wait weeks if not months for offers.
I’m hoping to have acquired an exciting title for September/October release next year, but since we are in negotiations it’s hush-hush for now.
The main entrance on the last night of the fair.