by Raelene Gorlinsky
Today I'm on my way home from the Frankfurt Book Fair (as implied, in Frankfurt am Main, Germany). Editor Rebecca Hill and I represented EC at this industry event and had a busy, busy four days. My Friday blog post will talk about our experiences and excitement at FBF; today I'm discussing book fairs in general.
Frankfurt is the largest international book fair among many. London, Bologna, Abu Dhabi, Beijing, Sharjah, and on and on... The Frankfurt fair takes up five huge halls, a total of ten floors, of the massive complex here. Several thousand companies participate, representing all parts of the world, although half the fair space is occupied by German businesses. Our EC booth was in the International hall, which had twenty rows stretching the length of the building.
A book fair is a "trade" event--it is for professionals representing the many elements of the publishing industry to come together to conduct business and share information. It is very much not an event for authors, readers, bloggers, bookstores, and so forth--there are no activities for them, the business purpose of the fair is not aimed at them.
[Book Expo America is not really a "book fair" the way others labeled that are. BEA's main function is to provide a venue to promote/publicize new books to those who can influence reader purchases. There are author signings and readings; book promotion videos and talks; free books by the ton given away; sessions for bloggers, for reviewers, for aspiring authors, for bookstore people, for fanatic fans. In other words, the "audience" the event is trying to reach is the general reading public, not the publishing industry.]
So what is the business conducted at Frankfurt and other international book fairs?
(1) Rights sales and licensing: The main function of the Fair is for publishers to sell territorial and translation rights to other publishers, or to license book-related products. For example, Ellora's Cave publishes "worldwide English" in both digital and print; we don't produce our books in other languages. Publishers in other countries buy from us the right to translate and distribute our books (specific titles they select) in their language.
(2) Services: Does a publisher need to find a company to digitally format their books, print them, distribute them (digital or print), market them, ship them, advertise them? Create apps or enhanced ebooks or graphic novels? There are hundreds of companies at the Fair ready to convince you they are the best business partner for your company's needs.
(3) Information and education: Panels and presentations on things that affect the publishing industry. What are the changes and trends going on? What is impacting our markets? How do we predict or prepare for future reader interests? What are the new technologies? What are Amazon, Google, Apple, et al, doing next and how will it affect the whole industry?
A few famous authors come to speak. Arnold Schwartzenegger was here--but the intent of his appearance was not to convince you or me as a reader to buy a copy of his new book. His purpose was to promote his book in a way that would convince publishers outside North America that readers in their countries would love to read about him--and therefore, those publishers should buy translation or territorial rights from his U.S. publisher.
Friday is traditionally another type of "education" day at FBF. That's when university students in programs such as Publishing, Library Sciences or Literature come to try to learn about the industry they want to work in. We spoke to students from Germany, U.S., UK, France and Japan.
There is actually a "public" component to Frankfurt Book Fair. Tuesday through Friday are for business; Saturday and Sunday the halls are open to the general public (for an admission fee). They can come in and browse, see the displays of publishers. It looked like a few booths sold off their display wares. EC gives away any print books and promo items left by Saturday--it's good reader publicity, and it would be too expensive to ship stuff back home. But the main activity for the public was unrelated to books, despite being held at and in conjunction with the Book Fair. Because it's just a few weeks before Halloween, there were huge costume contests going on in the German halls. Imaginatively and elaborately dressed people everywhere... And the parking lots were filled with stalls selling food, clothing, jewelry, knick-knacks--not book-related, just sort of a general craft fair.