Ah yes: it’s time for my annual treat: my trip to what is generally considered to be the most important rights fair in the publishing trade. Last week one of my Beloved Authors, commiserating with me, admitted he had taken his girlfriend to Frankfurt Book Fair one year. She liked books, apparently, and had discovered it was open to the public.
So before we go any further, let me please make one thing clear: just because an event is open to the public, it doesn’t mean the public should go!
I don’t known quite what the young lady was expecting, but apparently it wasn’t several enormous halls, all filled wall-to-wall with stands decorated with books you cannot actually take away with you and filled with publishers and editors and members of the rights and export sales teams who are engaged in a strange dance where, on the half-hour, every half-hour, one of each couple meeting gets up and moves to another stand, and the same words, sometimes rearranged into a different order, are repeated as everyone selling tries desperately to interest potential publishers in their books, and everyone buying
fails to resist the temptation to say ‘I’ll look at it’ (even when they know it wouldn’t stand a hope in hell on their list).
I don’t know if it made matters worse for the girlfriend that pretty much the only food on offer in the Buchmesse are any number of würst, but I don’t believe it can have helped: let’s face it, no mater how you dress it up, German sausage is really not the most romantic of food choices, is it?
But for the publisher, there are compensations (even if the only fresh air you’ll get all week is moving from Hall Eight – the main English-speaking foreign publishers’ hall – to Hall 6 – the agents’ centre). For those of us who do this regularly, it’s a great opportunity to meet one’s European and Asian peers – it’s a joy to me that genuine friendships have been built on those 30-minute slots. I realised, when I was checking my schedule this weekend (the one that Nicola started putting together the week after London Book Fair!) that there were a couple of notable absences, and when I double-checked that I’d not accidentally missed anyone, I was really disappointed to discover that my Portuguese chum Pedro isn’t going this year. (Don’t worry: I shall make sure he still gets everything I have that’s even remotely suitable – after all, I’ve been meeting him for years and I know just what he likes!)
So now I am off to pack: as long as I have my schedule, my special JFB rights guide that Kathryn did such a great job putting together before she left Rights for Editorial, and of course my incredibly classy business cards (thanks, Pat and Keith); thus armed I shall sally forth to place my Beloved Authors the length and breadth of Europe, and hopefully even down into Asia . . .
For times are hard across the world, but people still need to read. And what could be better to chase away the gloom of recession than a JFB book?