7 Tips for Your First Frankfurt Book Fair

With Frankfurt right around the corner, here are some pearls of wisdom from publishing veteran R. Peter Milroy on what you should know for your first Frankfurt Book Fair.

The Frankfurt Book Fair is the world’s largest publishing trade fair in terms of numbers of exhibitors. It occurs annually in early October at the Frankfurt fairground (Frankfurter Messegelände). For exhibitors, the fair begins on a Tuesday with setup and lasts until Sunday. Most of the serious business takes place on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, when the event is restricted to publishers, distributors, wholesalers, agents, and publishing service providers. Most meetings are scheduled for 30 minutes, and there is vast movement around the fair site on the hour and half-hour.

Most Canadian-owned publishers can qualify for assistance from Livres Canada Books’ Foreign Rights Marketing Assistance Program (FRMAP) to attend a book fair or qualified export event. In addition to the opportunity to make contacts with publishers, distributors, wholesalers, and sales agents, the fair is also one of the best learning experiences any publisher can have. The number of books in evidence is almost overwhelming, and it puts into perspective the challenges of making book discoverable and known to the world.

Your first Frankfurt Book Fair is bound to be both dazzling and overwhelming. The venue is huge and it is rather easy to get physically lost. Here are a few pointers for first-time attendees:

  • Organize your trip well in advance: Start to plan six months in advance. Know what you want to accomplish. Sell rights? Appoint an agent or distributor? Attend some professional development sessions?
  • Check to see if you are eligible for funding: Apply to the FRMAP program.
  • Make sure that you know the deadlines and meet them: The fair provides a useful chart of suggested and required dates and deadlines.
  • Displaying books and catalogues: Will you display your books on a stand or just carry some around with you? Although it is not required, having a stand or table during the fair is wise. You will want to bring some books and catalogues, and they are heavy to carry around. Livres Canada Books organizes the Canada Stand at major international book fairs, offering various kinds of space to rent. You can get anything from a shelf to a multiple-unit booth. It is often possible to share a booth with another publisher. If your booth partner is an experienced attendee, you will have the added benefit of a built-in advisor. Another option is to book your own stand, or it may also be possible to take some bookshelf space and arrange meetings at your distributor’s stand. Combined Academic Publishers and Eurospan both offer that service.
  • Accommodation: You will need a place to stay and Frankfurt is expensive and crowded, so try to find something well ahead of time. With your exhibitor or trade visitor pass, you will have access to public transit. The trains and rapid transit systems are excellent, so you can travel at no extra cost from the airport to points through the region, and you can easily stay in nearby cities like Mainz, Kronberg, Bad Homburg, Wiesbaden, Hanau, and Darmstadt, where accommodation is much less expensive. There are agencies that provide travel assistance, and the Fair also offers assistance with rooms in private homes.
  • Research and book meetings: Regular attendees at the Fair tend to book their times well in advance and also tend to meet with many of the same people each year. It is wise to do your homework about those that you want to meet, and to make your requests for meetings in early August.
  • Study the maps: The fair is extremely well-documented. Stands, booths, and halls are numbered and there are a number of buildings with moving sidewalks and shuttle buses to get from one hall to the next. However, it can take time to move between the halls, so try not to make back-to-back appointments in different buildings. At busy times, just getting across the hall to the washroom and back can take 15–20 minutes, so know where they are and leave time to get there.

Have you found this blog series useful? All this and more can be found in the full market guide Exporting Academic and Scholarly Books: A Guide for Canadian English-Language Publishers. Download your copy today!

10/11/2016 | Book Fairs, Events, Market Guides, Rights