From our appointments so far for Bologna, it seems very much like the last few fairs. Everyone we would like to see from Europe will be there. But, because of the economy, fewer publishers from South America and the Far East will be attending. As well, these publishers are buying fewer titles anyway. I don't quite have a handle on U.S. customers, although there have been so many cutbacks in the last few years from the U.S. anyway, I don't think there will be much of a change.
I think what we found at Frankfurt will continue in Bologna this year. The publishers we meet with are still interested in buying new projects, but they are looking at titles with a very discerning eye; they are considering projects that are special and unique, unlike most other titles in the marketplace, and titles that will make a real dollar impact to their bottom line.
Personally, I am not leery at all of traveling to Bologna. Even if something does break out in Iraq, I think those of us who have traveled often internationally know that this rarely, if ever, affects travel and business in Europe. Life goes on and business goes on as well.
For selling, prospects look fairly dim. It seems to me that it will be a buyer's market. Most years, there are very few "cold queries," people first introducing themselves and wanting to meet. This year, I have had a lot of them, mainly European packagers. My impression is that many are hurting as U.S. publishers are cutting their lists.
I used to be able to add some great finds from Bologna to a forthcoming list, just by making the list a little larger. I no longer have the flexibility in my investment budget to fall in love with a project and take it on the spot. I have to bring the numbers home and carefully work them in with existing plans to see how the cash outlay on imports will affect us.
The fair itself can be pretty grueling, with an appointment every 30 minutes for eight hours. Bologna is a chance to be with people you see often but never get to talk with, whether they live 3,000 or just a few miles away.
In terms of the fair itself, I look forward to the two or three free hours that I book for myself to just wander around the halls, seeing what the publishers from around the world are up to.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
I went to Frankfurt when we were in Afghanistan. That was a little scary. I'm flying to Bologna on a foreign carrier, not an American airline. I'm being careful, but business has to go on. We can't be paralyzed. The two big fairs, Frankfurt and Bologna, are very important to my business.
We often seem to go to Bologna under some sort of cloud; we've been through so many international problems. But publishing is a world unto itself. The weather in Bologna is good, the food is so good, people are genuinely happy to see each other. It's so unlike Frankfurt, where everyone is so unhappy to be there, the weather is miserable, the food is miserable. Bologna is just a happy fair.
Mary Ann Sabia
I'm actually very optimistic about this year's fair. Last year, I had the most successful fair to date, which resulted in some nice business (selling rights, that is). I expect this year will prove even more fruitful. In fact, I have a pretty hectic schedule and I have felt less resistance than last year from my contacts about committing to appointments. It's business as usual in Bologna for Charlesbridge.
I am not very optimistic about the success of this year's fair. A number of people whom we normally expect to see have said that they will not be attending. The current uncertain economic climate and the threat of hostilities beginning in Iraq just prior to or during the fair are obvious reasons for their deciding not to attend. At this point, I plan to attend, but I'll reevaluate my decision to travel as departure draws near and events unfold.
Dutton Children's Books/ Dial Books for Young Readers
To tell the truth, I'm not sure what to think about Bologna. My schedule filled up early with people wanting to see me rather than waiting for me to ask for appointments, which I guess is a good sign. But, as has been the case for the last few years, I don't think people are in a buying mood. World economies just aren't good, and there doesn't seem to be as much money to spend. And the fact of an impending war doesn't make things seem any more promising.
I must admit that the threat of war is kind of daunting—I haven't made my plane reservations yet, but I've made all my other plans and have no thought of canceling. This will be my 15th Bologna, and it is the highlight of my business year, so I can't imagine not attending. I have appointments with people who have never requested appointments before, and that seems very positive.
Right now it's business as usual, but things could change at the drop of un cappello—or, of course, a bomb. But I look forward to Bologna, as always, and suspect that most people will brave it out and carry on through their appointments and gelato breaks much the same as in other years. I anticipate that publishers will buy cautiously, however, which will make Workman's production-heavy books a bit of a challenge to sell. But we'll be there. I hope.
This year, Cricket celebrates its 30th birthday, and 30 long years ago, we also exhibited for the first time in Bologna. We faithfully return year after year through many changes, critical, political crises, wars, uprisings, etc. We were once chased into the underpass on Via Indipendenza when Italian soldiers marched next to advancing tanks to the Piazza Maggiore. It was a student uprising. During the Gulf War, soldiers with machine guns guarded several of the Middle Eastern stands. But the children's book business went on.
I firmly believe that it will go on again this year, despite the threat of war. Children need to read about their peers in other countries in order to understand different customs and traditions and open their minds to them. The relaxing and friendly atmosphere of the fair will make everyone forget the precarious world situation for a while and enjoy the world's best pasta and grappa, not to mention the Sangiovese.
Knopf Delacorte Dell Young Readers Group
Springtime seems to be the perfect time for unexpected events. Over the years, many of us have dealt with all sorts of world incidents that all seem to happen around fair time. My feeling is that you have to lead a normal life. One is cautious for oneself, but you have to go on with business as usual.
All these years of going to the fair have made me realize how similar people are all over the world. Little gems from one country can become gems in another country. Great books speak internationally.
Everyone's looking for great fiction. You can bring in great fiction easier because you aren't dependent on the euro and the dollar the way you are with bringing in a picture book. Our U.S. market is quite soft, and we have to deal with the reality of that. In fiction, it's a lot easier to make that leap of faith, because you're not bringing in actual copies and not sitting with the inventory. And when you're bringing in a novel or nonfiction, you have the opportunity to think about amortizing the cost over a paperback edition. It's a broader investment.
No matter what's happening internationally, there is a kind of world camaraderie to have all these people together who care about books for children. It transcends your country, your personal issues. Everyone there is looking for great books for children. Sure, there's an aspect of making money for your company, too. It's business, but it's more than business. We're crossing borders in a positive way.