When in Belgium….take advantage of the shorter distance to get to the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Pretty much everyone has heard of the the Frankfurt Book Fair, I think its safe to say that even my parents all the way on the west side of North America know what it is. But if you haven’t heard, its the world’s largest trade fair for books, based on the number of publishing companies represented.

Yay books. Lots of books!

So why would a writer want to go to a book fair? Well, for many reasons actually. I like to call it “writer development”. We all know that some writers tend to be on the shy side and even outright introverted. In addition to the quieter personalities, many writers also have the reputation of not being too business-savy. Well, to solve these two issues, writers can attend conferences and book fairs, for example.

Being the first “writerly-related” event I’ve attended, it was definately enlightening. I don’t think there is a better way to see the world’s publishers come together in one place.

There were so many halls to visit that you almost need both of the two days visitors are allowed to attend to see everything. The Book Fair website has lots of useful information about the event, not to mention very helpful directions on how to actually get there, but what it lacked was a basic “visitor’s guide” in English or at least I wasn’t given one.

First thing to find out is which hall the English publishers are in (if you’re mostly interested in publishing in English that is). This year it was in Hall 8, but I don’t know if this changes each year. I found this out a bit too late as I arrived at 9:00am and didn’t get to Hall 8 until about 4:00pm. Of course wandering around the German publisher’s hall and the other national publisher halls is interesting. But I only had one day to visit and nothing beats seeing the familiar.

I also enjoyed walking past, Spain, France, China, Dominican Republic, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Iceland (guest of honor this year). It was like getting a snapshot of their publishing. I loved getting a feel for their culture in a glance and seeing how the book cover designs differ in terms of look and feel. For example, in the Nordic publishers section I saw multiple covers with black, dark blue and then glimpses of light. I’ve heard that this is the Nordic style of design, but I didn’t believe it until I saw it lining the bookshelves. So if you’re not so into books, its at least an interesting way to experience cultures.

The second thing to do to prepare for the Book Fair is to look for are the presentations in English. Luckily, I did this online beforehand and I attended a great session: “Survival of the fittest? Booksellers and the ebook market”. On the panel was, Patricia Arancibia, Barnes & Nobel, Santiago de la Mora, Google, Michael Tamblyn, Kobo, and Ronal Schild, MVB (Germany) and the mediator, Ed Nawotka, is a book critic, which made for one interesting conversation. They even interacted with the audience which was a bonus because its not everyday you get to ask Barnes & Noble, Google, Kobo and MVB a question.

Some of the highlights were:

  • Barnes & Noble states that customers by on average buy 1.9 printed books and 2.6 ebooks.
  • Kobo said that they plan on developing advanced reader interaction and want to enhance the “reader experience” with ebooks
  • Google’s main goal tis to make books easier to search for
  • MVB is just breaking into the ebooks and is more focused on quality of the books than the pricing.

Ed Nawotka asked a great question along the lines of: “What will happen now that the internet is being used to search for books? Won’t the richer get richer?”

This question immediately made me think of Bob Mayer’s blog post when his sales declined after his book “fell off” the feature page due to a problem with the website:

“That glitch caused those books to drop precipitously in sales and off those bestseller lists. We went from selling hundreds a day to selling a handful. But it indicates the criticality of product placement.”

The panel representatives argued that the search engines get “pretty deep” and that they will continue to improve the search qualities so that readers can find what they are looking. However, I think Ed Nawotka and Bob Mayer have a point: the books that are featured on the landing pages or in email newsletters will sell the most. These webpages are the new front shelves.

Another interesting note on e-readers, was that it is important to take into consideration which books you want to read because from what I understand e-readers only allow you to purchase books from their specific “stores” and these stores have a limited selection (even if its in the hundred thousands).

It was very interesting to hear from the other end of the business. I read countless blogs from authors and agents, but its rare for me personally to come across tips, information and ideas from the people who are working for the publishers.

I couldn’t get over seeing the names of publishers I recognize and dreaming of seeing my book on those shelves one day. It was like meeting a famous person, or several famous publishers, that’s how exciting it was.

Have you ever been to a book fair? What do you think about ebooks and what it means for sales in the future?

11 thoughts on “Frankfurt Book Fair 2011”

  1. I’m planning on going with a friend to the Sao Paulo Book Fair next year (I’m in Brazil, remember? =P)
    I’m super excited about it!
    As far for e-books, i may have a simplistic view. It sounds simple, but I know it’s not, and I know it wouldn’t solve everything: Legacy publisher have to lower e-book prices and increase author royalties. That simple.
    It won’t solve every current chaos in the publishing industry, but I’m sure it would help. The trad publishing wouldn’t be in risk of dying, for example.
    If they did that, the industry would be stable enough to SEE and solve the other issues the e-book revolution is causing …

    1. I think the weather will be even better in Brazil. 🙂 Book fairs are fun. I want to go to another.

      I really hope they do as you say: lower ebook prices and raise author royalties. When it comes to ebooks, I think readers are mostly paying for the content (rather than the paper, design, ect.) and the author produces to content so it makes sense for the author to get higher royalties on the ebooks.

  2. This is so cool! I’ve never been to a book fair, and I’m jealous. SO much information to take it. As for e-books, I agree with Julianna. I don’t think the Legacies will disappear, but they’ve got to change things up. That’s why more and more new authors and mid-listers are going to the smaller, digital presses.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. The book fair looks amazing and it must have been fairly overwhelming! I would love to go to an event like this and must keep my eyes open for ones in the UK. Glad you had a good time and thank you for sharing your photos!

  4. Ooooh, books!! 🙂 I love Book fairs so much I am a constant go-er and usually leave most of my money there! Loved to see the Romanian booth, thank you for this beautiful surprise! Frankfurt is such a beautiful city, but I’ve never been to its Book fair.

    1. Next time I will have to go to the book fair on the day the sell the books. On Saturday they didn’t. I also spend a lot of money on books. Yes, the Romanian booth was pretty big compared to some of the other south eastern European booths. 🙂

      I didn’t get a chance to see Frankfurt, only the book fair. Maybe next time.

  5. I was at the book fair on Saturday as well and was quite disappointed when I found out that they only sell books on the last day.
    @ Juliana: in two years the guest of honour at the Frankfurt book fair will be Brazil!

Comments are closed.