At last year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, many international visitors were preoccupied with the financial meltdown that was occurring on a daily basis, particularly in the U.S. While the downturn began before last year’s Fair, most industry members, having made arrangements far in advance, decided to make the trip. Although the economy may actually be in better shape this fall than in 2008, many American publishers, though not all, have scaled back. Most American literary agencies have sent close to a full complement of people although a few are sitting out altogether. Among the bigger agencies not here is Larry Kirshbaum’s LJK Literary which will devote its energies to next year’s London Book Fair.
Preliminary estimates from the Frankfurt office put the total number of exhibitors registered at 6,936, down from 7,373 in 2008. The total number of titles exhibited is also down slightly, to 401,017 from 402,284 last year, although the exhibit space has held even at 171,790 square feet.
Among the American publishers, Random House has brought fewer people, although spokesperson Stuart Applebaum said that all of the North American publishing groups have rights people at the show and Bonnie Ammer and her international sales team are also in attendance, as is Random House Chairman Marcus Dohle. Hachette Book Group CEO David Young is leading the HBG unit and the publisher, which is having the best year among American publishers, has sent the same size contingent as last year. Marcella Berger is leading Simon &Schuster’s sub rights team and S&S also has an international sales team in place, although S&S’s overall presence is smaller. HarperCollins has fewer people than last, occupying a smaller booth, although CEO Brian Murray is in attendance. Penguin Group USA has sent about the same number of rights, sales and publishing people as last year.
The decision by American houses to scale back their presence is in keeping with their efforts all year to control costs, efforts which resulted in most publishers taking less exhibit space at both the London Book Fair and BookExpo America. Business in the US continues to be soft; bookstore sales through July were down 2.4%. The sales forecast for the full year prepared by the Institute for Publishing Research calls for sales of adult titles to fall 4%, with hardcovers down 4.7% and trade paperback off 3%. Sales of children’s books are projected to increase about 5%. Al Greco, who prepared the forecast, said he has no reason to revise those projections. Last week, Barnes & Noble reported that same-store sales for the second quarter ending 31 October would likely fall 1% to 3%, with comparisons getting better in October compared to August and September, mainly because it was last October when the bottom fell out of the retail market.
Click here for more Frankfurt Book Fair 2009 coverage from PW and BookBrunch.