While many North American publishers were unaware that the Frankfurt Book Fair was moving its LitAg, the Literary Agents & Scouts Centre, from Hall 6 to the Festhalle next year, those who were aware of the situation were unequivocal in their criticism. Moving the LitAg will mean that the rights center will be about a five minute walk from Hall 6, making both publishers and agents concerned it will make it more difficult to schedule meetings.
“It’s an unmitigated disaster,” said an American publisher who requested anonymity. “I’m going to have to make several changes. Either I will have to bring more staff to Frankfurt to accommodate our being in two places at once, or I am going to have to schedule one day of meetings at the agents center and one day at my booth. Either way, it’s a lose lose.”
Dan Wells, publisher of Biblioasis, has a stand in Hall 6.0 and said that he likes things the way they are. “I can run up and down escalators all day long, but if I have to leave the Hall to take meetings, it’s going to be much more difficult for me to arrange my days.”
Johanna Ingalls, managing editor of Akashic Books—which also has a stand in Hall 6.0— said she didn't like the move. "The change will mean that my fair is almost guaranteed to be less productive. I am going to have to take half as many meetings and it's likely that my meetings will have to be shortened to 15 minutes, rather than 30.”
While the LitAg has moved several times in the past decade, frustrating some, it is also been necessary to accommodate growth; this year the LitAg sold 538 tables, up from some 500 the year before. Next year's move was necessitated by plans for renovating different buildings on the fair grounds.
Among the agents themselves, the reaction has been mixed. “We are constantly told that we are ‘the heart of the fair’ and rights are the very reason for the fair’s existence, yet we are being treated like pawns,” said one, who noted the existence of a petition circulating in the LitAg asking the fair to reconsider the decision to move the center.
Another agent, one who asked not to be named for fear of backlash, suggested that the move might prove to be auspicious. “I don’t know what all the complaining is about. It’s not as if what we have now is so luxurious,” she said. “And who knows, maybe the Festhalle will be a nicer venue, maybe it will finally have enough women’s bathrooms so I won’t have to wait in line to pee.”