FRANKFURT BOOK FAIR

Posted by Carole Stuart on November 02, 2009 | Permalink

This blog was delayed due to being caught up in football and baseball.
FRANKFURT BOOK FAIR
Lyle was one of the first Americans to attend the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1960.  There’s a photograph hanging in my office of Lyle and of other publishing people representing the American Booksellers Association who would be the first group to attend. For years “Frankfurt” was the major international book fair for publishers throughout the world interested in selling translation rights to their books.  We haven’t attended in a long time.  Publishing has changed and rights are being sold in many different ways.  I go to the London Book Fair. It’s shorter, smaller (although growing steadily) and London is a nice city to visit.
The report that follows is compiled by friends who did attend:
The big projects of the Fair this year were a Nelson Mandela book, and THE DISCOVERY OF WITCHES from St. Martin’s Press.  There were fewer people attending and many heads of houses and high profile people stayed home, leaving the rights people to do their jobs unencumbered.  Many stands were smaller than usual—S&S for example.  Those who did attend, worked hard; so it was constructive. Many baby boomers announced their retirement, and there were some private parties for big names like Toine Akveld, etc.  Hachette still had its pre-Frankfurt soiree, but Bertelsmann and Heyne (two German power houses) no longer do.  Three new hotels were built in Frankfurt last year, so some hotel rates have gone down.
The refrain from most quarters is that the fair is too long and many resent that it is opened to the public on the weekend; when most foreign publishers have already gone home.  Frankfurt secured the Book Fair through 2023 so it won’t be moved to Berlin or Munich, as rumored, any time soon.  One of the biggest concerns is e-rights and how to protect territories. It is still worth attending the Fair as there is still serendipity: should a foreign publisher pass your stand and see a book that they want but otherwise would not have known about.  One meets new editors, learns about new publishing programs, etc.  So, yes, it’s worth doing but only for 3 days.
It all depends on how you spin things: A very abbreviated article from The Bookseller saw the Fair this way:
“This year’s Frankfurt Book Fair…the second busiest in its 61-year history, according to the final numbers released by the organiser. The figures belie the quiet mood in the international Hall 8, where estimates suggested numbers were down as much as 20%, with fewer editors and fewer American publishers in attendance. But Frankfurt Book Fair director Juergen Boos said “many publishers found this fair to be the best in a long time” To read the entire article go to: http://www.thebookseller.com/ 

REINHARD MOHN
There’s a certain irony about The Frankfurt Fair just ending and the death of Reinhard Mohn who died on October 8 at the age of 88.
Mohn was the fifth-generation head of Bertelsmann, the German publishing company he inherited after its near-demise in the wake of World War II and transformed it into a world-wide media empire that owned Random House, music conglomerate Sony BMG, and numerous television and magazine chains.
Mohn had been in a prisoner-of-war camp in the U.S. in the state of Kansas. When he was released after the War he went back to Germany and started the Bertelsmann Book Clubs, which were unique and extremely successful.
In the years we attended the Frankfurt Book Fair the Bertelsmann party was THE party to get into.  At first it was only for German publishers but as Americans and other non-German publishers were coming to the Fair the very smart and talented, Michael Meller, who was then working for Bertelsmann, convinced Mohn that he should open the invitation list to others. 
Getting in was a symbol that you’d made it.  It was a tough party to crash. You had to get by Michael who stood guard (literally) at the top of a circular staircase that led to the ballroom where the party was held. The security rivaled getting past the guards at the White House. Once in, the food and drinks were non-stop.  It was also a great networking place.
After spending long days at the Bookmesse, publishing people were hungry and thirsty. At the party, waiters passed trays of wine and beer.  There were few places to sit but people clustered around the tall tables scattered throughout the large room.
As his obit described, Mohn, came from Gutersloh, Germany and made the city the home base for Bertelsmann. He established an unusual open-space office atmosphere. Instead of people being closed in their cubicles, the office was open, divided by plants rather than walls, encouraging staff to have a pleasant workplace. Lyle admired and copied the policy.  Eventually, it didn’t work for either Bertelsmann or Lyle Stuart Inc. and back to traditional offices we went.
Bertelsmann is the 800-pound gorilla in the publishing industry but even the mighty are pulling in their belts.  This year’s Frankfurt Book Fair was the first without a Bertelsmann party.  A lot of hungry, thirsty book industry people were not happy.

 

 

 

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