Friday, October 19, 2018

Reflections on the Frankfurt Book Fair 2018

Image result for frankfurt buchmesse 2018 logo

With almost a week and 18,000 km of distance since this year's Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's major publishing event can be viewed with healthy perspective.

There's simply no event like this global gathering of book people and the opportunity to showcase New Zealand authors, illustrators, designers and editors to the world is unique.

Front of house with style: PANZ Director Catriona Ferguson and Stand Manager Heike Reifgens on the NZ stand
Some of the NZ publisher crew on the opening morning, from left: Joy and Beau Davidson (DHD Publishing), Dame Wendy Pye (Sunshine Books), Linda Cassells (Calico Publishing), Catriona Ferguson (PANZ), Tracy Strudley (Global Education Systems), yours truly (Oratia) and Nicola Smith (Essential Resources)
Having a collective stand organised by the Publishers Association of New Zealand (PANZ) made it possible for our nine publishers to be there, helped by the contribution of Creative New Zealand and Education New Zealand.

Our stand in Hall 6.0 was striking and easy to access, with ample space for meetings or for visitors to walk on and pick up a book.

We shared our floor with collective stands from Australia, Canada, Israel, the UK and the US,a longside major multinationals like Hachette and HarperCollins, independent publishers and a host of publishing services companies (printers, freight forwarders, distributors and more).

This was the 70th Frankfurt Book Fair, and the organisers matched that anniversary with the same milestone for the Univeral Declaration on Human Rights to underpin the need for a free, fair and open book industry worldwide.
Gathering for the official opening of the fair, which welcomed the Prime Minister of Georgia (this year's guest country)
The impressive Federica Mogherini, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, addresses the official opening with reflections on human rights, culture and the key role of the book
A public lending library in
Gallus, Frankfurt

Georgia made for a fascinating guest of honour, with its long literary tradition, unique alphabet and history of struggle for independence.

Wearing hats as publisher for Oratia, representative for Massey University Press and Te Papa Press, and president of PANZ meant a packed schedule. As a consequence I didn't get to stroll the corridors of the six massive halls much, but from the scores of meetings and events the Kiwis engaged in, there was a reassurance about the place of publishing in the world.

Numbers of professional visitors at the fair might have been slightly down, with the Friday's foot trade rather quiet, while concerns about persecution and populist politicians are worrying many.

A little corner of Frankfurt was Oratia ...
But there is also undoubted confidence in the book's place in modern society, excitement in the growth of audio and consumer desire for beautifully designed and printed work, and greater coherence in international links.

PANZ is liaising ever more closely with fellow associations and book fair organisers in countries like Canada, China, Ireland, Italy and Mexico, considering shared issues (copyright is a hot topic). The opening evening of the fair saw a repeat of our Irish and New Zealand publisher dinner.

IPA President-elect Hugo Setzer (right), who visited New Zealand in June for the PANZ International Conference, visited our stand on the Friday while I was meeting Indonesian agent Alda Trisda (second from right)
Talk of fairs to come: David Unger (centre), international representative of the Guadalajara International Book Fair, with interested Kiwi publishers
Having Auckland University Press director Sam Elworthy on the Executive Committee of the International Publishers Association adds further to this international engagement. New Zealand simply has to be at the table when global issues of copyright and freedom to publish are debated.

As for the books on Oratia's stands – the runaway social-media success of I Need a New Bum! drew further attention to our picture books, while there was much admiration for the fine illustrated works from Te Papa and Massey, particularly the stunning Tatau: A History of Sāmoan Tattooing.
Blue skies, hot days – a most non-autumnal Frankfurt ...

... but inside, the normal bustle and business

The Frankfurter Messe was, as ever, really crowded, though as the following statement from the book fair reports, marginally quieter on the professional days than in 2017. Perhaps it was the weather – never I experienced such hot days for the fair, leaving those of us emerging from the southern hemisphere winter sweltering. We will need to prepare for climate-change fairs from now on.

Frankfurt, 14 October 2018 – The 70th Frankfurter Buchmesse ended with an increase of 0.8 percent in visitors at the weekend and a slight decrease of 1.8 percent during the trade visitor days. A total of 285,024 (2017: 286,425) visitors attended the fair, 0.5 percent less than in 2017. Overall, international attendance increased at the fair this year, both in terms of exhibitors and trade visitors. With 7,503 exhibitors from 109 countries taking part at this year’s Frankfurter Buchmesse, the fair experienced a slight increase. The Literary Agents & Scouts Centre (LitAg) also grew once again, with 528 booked tables (2017: 500 tables), 795 agents (788) and 337 agencies (321) from 31 countries, including 19 new agencies. A total of 3,000 people took part in the conferences and workshops in THE ARTS+ area, while 125,000 people visited the innovative area in Hall 4.1. The BOOKFEST events in the Frankfurt Pavilion and in the city attracted 25,000 visitors.

“As the most international event of its kind, Frankfurter Buchmesse is the ideal place to discuss topics affecting the global community. We saw a noticeable increase in the need for political participation; the desire is increasing to represent one’s own position and participate in the public discourse. A number of topics predominated during this year’s activities, including the importance of human rights, along with displacement and migration, populism and civic engagement. During the trade visitor days, the focus was on international book markets and industry trends,” said Juergen Boos, Director of Frankfurter Buchmesse. Many trade publishers said of this year's fair that business was strong, from the connections they made to the titles they bought and sold.

For more, click on this link.

Wiewed with a bit of hindsight, it is still the relationships that make Frankfurt. No number of phone calls or emails can substitute for the face-to-face contact, the casual meetings, the friendships that after years lead to a deal or the ability to kick off an introduction to another NZ publisher.

With Erivan Gomez, publisher of Telos Editora, which will publish the Brazilian edition of I Need a New Bum! next month
With Malaysian publisher and agent Linda Tan Lingard
Old and new friends at the New Zealand stand party last Friday:

Frankfurt has just opened up its brilliantly reconstructed old town, which had been destroyed in Second World War bombing
Auf Wiedersehen Frankfurt – bis 2019!

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