Frankfurt Book Fair 2012: An honour to be there
Peter Dowling reports from Frankfurt
New Zealand’s role as country of honour defined this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair for any Kiwi in attendance. From the banners proclaiming the Why You Were Sleeping motto to the many reports in German media, our presence was inescapable. This was a week in which to be a New Zealand publisher was to be accorded respect, asked about our books and country, and get invites to some of the better parties …
The public focus of the Ehrengast year was the New Zealand pavilion in the Frankfurter Messe, where Creative New Zealand based its cultural programme (there were also events across Frankfurt and other parts of Germany). Responses to the programme and the space were highly positive, with large crowds pressing to get in during the public days on the weekend, and compliments flying from book people I talked with.
But Hall 8 of the massive Messe, where the New Zealand publishers stand was housed, is a long way from the pavilion, and there was business to be done. After the Tuesday opening ceremony I managed to get into the pavilion just once, to hear our author Paul Tapsell taking part in a standing-room-only discussion with other Maori artists and writers.
With a far bigger collective stand and better position, Oratia Media enjoyed a busy and productive period at the fair. Thanks to our marketing specialist Isabell Zitzelsberger we had secured many appointments with German publishers, and I spent considerable time in the German and illustrated books halls. And thanks to being here for the third year running, I was able to solidify key relationships with publishers from Italy, Germany, the US and Brazil.
This year’s standout title for us was New Zealand Tattoo, which attracted a lot of passing traffic to the stand. We have competitive foreign-language rights offers on the table for this large illustrated book, and requests for direct distribution of the English edition into many countries. Children’s books also generated considerable interest, with Dawn McMillan and Ross Kinnaird’s I Need a New Bum and Woolly Wally leading the charge along with Tim Tipene’s Patu and Bullies and Warriors.
As always, the work starts now to close the deals, agree terms, and develop our next coedition proposals. But I’m leaving with the feeling of real progress. We’ve showcased that New Zealand has a vibrant publishing sector – I was one of three publishers who introduced our market at the annual Business Breakfast on the Thursday – and hugely advanced international understanding of what makes us tick. I look forward to next year when it’s Brazil’s turn in the spotlight.