This year’s Frankfurt Book Fair will be a significantly smaller event than usual, with many publishers opting not to host stands or booths. Instead, the fair is touting the presence of national stands from more than 40 countries around the world, many professing solidarity with the fair, having seen their own events curtailed in the past 18 months.
Canada, the guest of honor, will have two of the biggest stands at the fair, with separate stands for English-language publishers and the French-language publishers from Quebec. While most North American publishers and those from the U.K. will not be participating, Continental participation will be strong and several Asian nations will host stands, including Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, and Taiwan. India’s National Book Trust will be hosting a collective stand with 200 titles representing the work of 25 publishers.
“We have been in touch with our publishing partners online, but we know that there is nothing like in-person meetings, which allow spontaneity in discussions and kick-start innovation,” says Kumar Vikram, publishing editor at the National Book Trust.
Laura Prinsloo, who is in charge of the Indonesia stand, says this year will be different from previous years and that the stand will not focus on individual publishers but will promote Jakarta Content Week, an event that highlights the creative work in the city. Books and a selection of “curated creative products” will be on display, she adds. “And of course we will be promoting the fact that Jakarta is the host city for the International Publishers Association Congress in 2022.”
The Taiwan stand will be themed “The Scents of Taiwan” and will offer visitors “a combined experience of scents, culture, and reading,” according to Cecilia Chen, coordinator of the International Team for the Taipei Book Fair Foundation. This includes the creation of five scents from native Taiwanese plants for the exhibition. A video recording of an event entitled “Creative Asia: Rights Matters,” about rights sales in the region, will be shown at the stand and online.
For many, negotiating translation deals is a key component of Frankfurt. Sinead MacAodha of Literature Ireland, which runs the stand for Irish publishers, will be hosting a two-hour meeting for ENLIT, the network of translation promotion agencies. “We are attending the fair because we wish to renew contact with a range of European publishers who publish literature in translation,” she says. “And we hope to link up with sister organizations who promote literature abroad.”
MacAodha points out that several noteworthy Irish authors have new books on the market, including John Banville, Jan Carson, Hugo Hamilton, Claire Keegan, Bernard MacLaverty, Sally Rooney, and Colm Tóibín. “In addition, we will also for the first time in many years present a new catalog of writing in the Irish language,” she adds.
Kaidi Urmet, who manages the Frankfurt stand for the Estonian Publishers Association, sums up what many European stand directors said when surveyed as to whether they will attend the fair: “The Frankfurt Book Fair is the most important book fair for us all year long. We have participated for more than 25 years, and this year we will do the same. It is important for us to meet with as many agents and publishers as possible to promote our literature.”
Nopi Chatzigeorgiou, international book fair coordinator for the Hellenic Foundation for Culture, runs the stand promoting Greece. She predicts that 10 Greek publishers will participate. In addition, the Hellenic Foundation will be promoting its new program and web portal to promote Greek translations, at greeklit.gr.
Chatzigeorgiou says 2020 was a difficult year for Greek publishers, but they “reacted in a fast, creative, and effective way and worked on finding digital solutions through launching e-bookstores, via digital marketing, and hosting digital events. So, it was not a disaster, we go on!” She adds that everyone wants to get back to normal so that Greece’s own international book fair, the Thessaloniki Book Fair, can be held November 25–28, after it was moved from its regular dates in May. “The show must go on,” she notes.
Nicholas Roche, director of Bureau International de l’Edition Francaise and host of the French collective stand at Frankfurt, says, “We will go and try to do business. While we expect there will be many sellers, we hope there will also be buyers.” That said, Roche notes that there will be no French authors at Frankfurt, but more than 105 publishers will be represented at the stand, either on their own or via agents and representatives.
The Swiss will also have a significant presence, with 57 exhibitors participating in the stand, according to Myriam Lang, head of the Swiss Publishers Association, which will host them.
Tiia Stranden, director of the Finnish Literary Exchange, confirms that the organization will have a booth within the larger stand hosted by the Finnish Publishers Association. “We thought it would be important to be there, to be among the first people there when the book fair reopens, but we will have a smaller presence than usual,” she notes.