by Victoria M. Johnson
I've been to book fairs before and I've been to Frankfurt before. But combine the two and I was blown away by the enormity of the five-day event. There were five multi-storied buildings filled with displays, vendor booths, and small gathering spaces for author lectures. I attended a full day and only had time for half of the offerings on half the floors of two buildings (about 14%). Reportedly, nearly 276,000 people visited the event this year.
Salman Rushdie gave the keynote address on the day before I attended. I was disappointed to have missed his speech but I believe only newspaper and magazine visitors were permitted on that day. In any case, I found a recording of his talk. He spoke passionately about freedom of expression. He said publishing was the guardian of freedom of speech. "Without freedom of expression, all other freedoms fail." And he talked about how, through fiction, we put ourselves into question. (His address begins at the 32:20 mark and lasts about 23 minutes).
The 2015 guest of honor was Indonesia and a special exhibit called "17,000 Islands of Imagination" wowed the festival goers. Their press kit (available on bookfair's web site) gives this intro; "From shadow dance to science fiction, from batik to comic, from poetry to street food: The Frankfurt Book Fair's Guest of Honour presents its diverse cultural and literary landscape." Sounds intriguing doesn't it?
Another very cool feature amongst the vendor booths were strategically placed tables with literary agents talking to clients or prospective clients, and publishers and other book professionals (i.e. book designers and illustrators) also pitching projects or services to each other.
I started off on a floor of non-fiction foreign publishers. Since I was in Germany, the U.S. publishers were considered foreign and many had booths with their books. I talked to several publishers and editors and exchanged cards with those open to seeing a non-fiction proposal from me. After a couple hours of this I had to get to the correct floor to meet someone.
Let me back up for a moment. I had decided to attend the book fair when a representative of one of my publishers (Amazon's Montlake Romance) found out I had recently moved to Germany and invited me to stop by Amazon's booth, meet her for coffee and attend their champagne reception. Lauren Edwards and many others from the AmazonCrossing team were in attendance. That imprint handles translations of foreign books into English. We had a wonderful visit and ate yummy desserts with our beverages.
When Lauren returned to the Amazon booth, I searched for the Calendar Exhibit in another building. The calendars on display were beautiful works of art. I was glad I took the time to see them. I had no idea of the variety in size (some were huge) and the variety of the arrangement of the month and days. The author lectures were all in German so I skipped those. Next I explored the children's book offerings. Now, I think children's books are precious anyway, but I spotted some international publishers with books that were unbelievably enchanting. One publisher from Spain had the most mesmerizing children's books in Spanish.
Lauren introduced me to several of the AmazingCrossing editors and I met a couple of really cool agents who represented Amazon authors. Then a live band began playing music nearby and everyone seemed to get in the party mood. But it was time for me to leave. I left with fabulous book bags, pens, buttons, publisher catalogs, and a t-shirt, but sadly, no books (vendors were not allowed to sell books until the last day of the festival). More importantly, I came away comforted in the knowledge that so many thousands of people still love books. Now that's worth a champagne toast!
For More Fascinating Pictures of book fair happenings, click Part II blog post.
Publishers Weekly gives a round up of big book deals made here:
Goodreader.com gives publishing news from the book fair here:
Victoria M. Johnson knew by the time she was ten that she wanted to be a writer. She loves telling stories and she's happiest when creating new characters and new plots. Avalon Books and Montlake Romance published Victoria's fiction debut, The Doctor’s Dilemma, (A 2012 Bookseller’s Best double finalist). Her other fiction book is a collection of romance short stories titled, The Substitute Bride and a novella, Hot Hawaiian Christmas. She is also the writer and director of four short films and two micro documentaries. Visit Victoria's website at http://VictoriaMJohnson.com for inspiration and tips and find her Amazon author page or connect with her on Pinterest and Twitter.