Even in uncertain times, the Frankfurt Fair changes little, which is certainly one of the reasons its prime users look forward to this summit meeting of the book trade, running this year from October 9—14. Indeed, after a management clash that led to the dismissal of the show's immoderately innovative director, Lorenzo Rudolph, the Frankfurt fair will be run for the first time in its 53-year history by a book professional, Volker Neumann, who until last June was managing director of the international Random House publishing group at Bertelsmann.
His arrival came too late to change any fair essentials, however, and visitors will find the fair map just about as it was last year, with German publishers grouped at the town side of the fairgrounds; other non-English-using publishers in the middle; U.S., U.K. and their allies at the far end—on the assumption, certainly justified, that all the world craves English-language rights and will conquer every obstacle to track them down. Frankfurt's management has in recent years attempted to run the fair as a two-track event, with German publishers easily accessible to visiting booksellers, the press and public, while foreign publishers are bundled to facilitate the rights exchange. (If there are any objections to this set-up, they come from German publishers who depend on English-language bestsellers and wish they could get closer to the gold.)
Which brings up another thing—until now, the people who map out the exhibition halls have never quite grasped the ways and means of the rights business, an awkward failing often attributed to the fact that literary agents have until recently been rarities in the German market (those that exist usually focus on sub-agenting for foreign agents, authors and publishers). As a consequence, expect to find the Literary Agents and Scouts Center not on the inconvenient second level of Hall 6 as it was last year, but on the even less convenient third level. (The new fair director, who does understand the rights business, is coming on board only as you read this—probably too late to do anything about the location of agents and scouts this year.)
Frankfurt's Own Rights-Online
Now look at the positive side. No other event in the world allows such instant and universal exposure of sellers to buyers (and vice versa). Thanks to advance circulation of catalogues both print and online, it is child's play to identify potential contacts in advance and to set up fair appointments. More, Frankfurt has now perfected its own, and virtually free-of-charge, online rights service, after the decline or fall of most of the commercial start-ups offering essentially the same facilities.
The Frankfurt offering has at its core the fair's own catalogue, giving essential data on the 6,000 annual exhibitors as well as a who's who of the fair. Then a Frankfurt rights catalogue contains paid listings of some 20,000 projects in 60 languages that can be searched via subject keywords, and containing updated rights and license information. (Title information can be updated by the supplier all the year around; listings for 12 months cost 50 euros—approximately the same in U.S. dollars—for one to 25 titles, 150 euros for 26—100 titles, plus value-added tax.
But Frankfurt's killer app is a protected rights exchange allowing users—which means fair exhibitors and/or online directory advertisers—to send and receive information on rights availability, asking for or granting options, and actually entering into negotiations, even completing a deal in this encrypted environment. This also allows a potential buyer to indicate areas of interest and automatically receive information on newly registered titles all year long. The Rights Exchange, as its director Marifé Boix Garcia explains, is operational 365 days a year, and is thus "the perfect addition to the physical fair in the autumn." (Contact her at the Book Fair: fax 49-69 2102 227, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Off the Floor
Veterans will tell newcomers that the fair begins not at its formal Wednesday opening but as early as the previous weekend, with pre-scheduled meetings in the lobbies of the major fair hotels, restaurants and cafés. As usual, international book groups use these pre-fair days to set up meetings of their far-flung affiliates, as do international bodies such as the International Association of Scientific, Technical, and Medical Publishers (STM) and the International Publishers Association. (And a couple of the best parties—those that provide an opportunity to see who made it to the fair this year—take place before the opening day.)
For the 16th time, the fair is sponsoring an International Rights Directors Meeting on October 8, the Tuesday afternoon preceding the fair inaugural (2—5 p.m. in the Alliance/Entente Room, Hall 4, Level C), followed by a reception. This year's meeting focuses on neglected languages "ready for take-off," i.e., producing books worth translating. Participants include, for Russian, Irina Prokhorova of New Literary Review Press of Moscow, and Andrew Nurnberg, London literary agent specializing in Russian rights; for central and Eastern European languages, Lynette Owen of London's Pearson Education and Simona Kessler of the Kessler agency in Bucharest; for Brazilian, Sergio Machado of Rio de Janeiro's Record and Marisa Maura of Pagina da Cultura in Sao Paulo; for China, Hu Shouwen of China Youth Press in Beijing, and Claudia Kaiser for the German Book Information Center, also Beijing; for Korean, Bo Yeon Park of the Korean Publishers Association (with another South Korean participant to be announced). (Admission to the seminar: $140; contact Barbara Becker at the Fair office.)
The Electronic Media Center, which has been expanding and receding along with the industry it seeks to serve, will henceforth be known as the Media and Information Center (it's on the ground floor of Hall 4). The Booksellers Center on the second level of Hall 6 is now available to foreign as well as German professionals. Comic book publishers will have an exhibition area of their own (on the ground floor of Hall 3), targeting both professionals and the general public.
One can guess that the series of forums collectively called "Bridges for a World Divided," billed as "integrative platforms for multicultural and interdisciplinary discourse" and scheduled to bring together leading figures in literature, the arts, science, politics, business and religion, is targeted to the German public and media. Neither the forums not the public symposium on Saturday, October 12, called "Frankfurt Futura Mundi" should concern professionals or interfere with their movements.
Meanwhile, in the real world, trade visitors with credible credentials will be able to purchase tickets at the gates good for the run of the fair (34.75 euros, or about the same amount in U.S. dollars; a one-day ticket costs five euros). Opening hours are from 9—6:30 from Wednesday to Sunday, to 2 p.m. on the closing Monday. A subway runs from the Frankfurt airport to the main railway station (the Hauptbahnhof), with a change for the underground line U4—exit Festhalle Messe. Other subway lines (in the "S" system) stop at the station called Messe. It beats the taxi queue.