books · Publishing

No Party Like a Book Party: The Frankfurt Book Fair

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It’s that time of year again. Time when publishers, authors, and book vendors of all sorts converge upon Germany to hobnob, eat too much food, and find the next best thing in books. That’s right. It is time for the annual Frankfurt Book Fair.

The Frankfurt Book Fair is the largest books trade fair in the world. Over a quarter of a million visitors and 7,000 exhibitors from over 100 countries descend upon Frankfurt each autumn in order to participate. For publishers, this is one of the most important events in the season because it allows them to make international connections and identify new opportunities for acquisitions, sales, and production venues. Here, over 650 agents try to convince 180 publishers to look at specific works. Here, those publishers try to sell or purchase the rights to the translation of books. Here, wholesalers gain new insights into what upcoming publications will rock the book world.

If a person is a books professional, Frankfurt is the place to be.

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The Frankfurt Book Fair has a long history and has existed in some form or another for over 500 years. When Johannes Gutenberg developed the movable printing  press in Mainz near Frankfurt in 1439, booksellers soon established a book fair. Though the fair has changed a great deal since its initial incarnation, it has continued to play a valuable role in the publishing industry.

Beginning in the 1970’s, the fair has had a “guest of honor” or a specific regional interest around which readings, art exhibitions, and other programs are developed. The guest country receives its own special exhibition hall, and participants are encouraged to engage with that country in particular. In 2015, Indonesia was that special guest. This year the honor goes to the Netherlands and Flanders, and it will be exciting to see what they choose to highlight. (They have designed their pavilion to look like the countries’ landscape, flat with the sea at the horizon.)

Though the Frankfurt Book Fair is designed for folks in the industry, it always opens its doors to the public on the last day. Then it transforms into a place where fans of particular books can talk to authors, sit in on discussion sessions, and, of course, pick up piles and piles of books. The transition is often a bit jarring. The venue goes from being filled with football fields worth of people in suits to being filled with laypeople, some of whom are dressed as their favorite characters from literature. But I think that juxtaposition is the perfect melding of the books industry, and it helps people who work with books remember for whom books are being created: people.

The Frankfurt Book Fair is a wonderful occasion, and I hope to see your books on the Fair’s trade floor someday! There is usually a section of self-published works as well, so I may even have the chance to see books by my indie writer friends there. (Though I suppose I’ll have to look for writing names rather than blog names, which could be a difficult transition. I swear, I know more pseudonyms than real names.)

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Image Attributions:

Ronald Kunze, “Siegfried Unseld, Buchmesse Frankfurt am Main”, 1969, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Unseld.JPG

 Jean-Marie Juraver, “Sous le chapiteau de la Foire du Livre,” 2013, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ambiance_FDL_2.jpg

 

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6 thoughts on “No Party Like a Book Party: The Frankfurt Book Fair

  1. Fascinating history to the book fair and also frightening numbers regarding visitor numbers! It must be huge and the atmosphere electric and slightly crazy. Thanks for sharing and yeah, imagine having ones book out there – perhaps being promoted by one of the 650 agents!

    Liked by 1 person

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