The Frankfurt Book Fair is no stranger to change: over the past decade, it has aggressively pursued new initiatives aimed at including the full horizon of storytelling in digital media, in films and games as well as books. But 2015 may well be one of the biggest years of change ever for the fair, which runs October 14–18.
This most visible change: English-language publishers will have a new home, moving from Hall 8—on the outskirts of the fairgrounds—to Hall 6, the middle of the action. Juergen Boos, director of the fair, explained that for much of the event’s history, most English-language publishers were rights sellers, which meant that reps from other territories would trek to Hall 8 to see them. “Now, in a global market, this is not the relationship anymore,” Boos said at the close of last year’s fair, noting that the new layout reflects the increasingly diverse, international nature of the publishing business. The aim, he says, is to ensure that no visitor has to walk for more than five minutes to get to a meeting, whether with American, Asian, British, European, or Latin American publishers.
The hall shift isn’t the only change on tap for 2015. This year will mark the second year of the Frankfurt Business Club, which debuted in 2014. The business club offers fairgoers a premium experience, including a program of exclusive high-caliber events and a place for fairgoers to conduct business, including new tech innovators who may not be exhibiting at the fair but nevertheless want to explore business opportunities with publishers. Among the highlights of this year’s Business Club schedule are interviews with Hachette CEO Arnaud Nourry (October 14, 2–3 p.m.) and author Ken Follett (October 15, 10–11 a.m.).
A new prefair opening conference—the Markets—will replace last year’s ConTec event (which had replaced Tools of Change). With digital publishing now firmly a part of the book business, and digital developments now permeating the fair, the Markets pivots away from the trend of hosting Tools of Change–like conference openers that focused on digital developments. Instead, the Markets (October 13, 8 a.m.) will seek to showcase publishing segments from seven regions around the world, highlighting opportunities for international business and partnerships.
Of course, rights dealing remains the lifeblood of the Frankfurt Book Fair. In 2015, Frankfurt’s Literary Agents & Scouts Centre (LitAg) will again offer a record number of tables, featuring more than 300 agencies and more than 600 registered agents from more than 30 countries. With the hall shift in 2015, LitAg will now be under the same roof as English-language publishers. And, it will also have a new layout that Frankfurt officials say will “guarantee the best possible working conditions” for agents. At last year’s fair, HarperCollins CEO Brian Murray spoke of a publishing industry that is embracing experimentation. The changes at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair are designed to reflect and accommodate changes in the industry, and to set the stage for the next act in global publishing.