The 2010 Frankfurt Fair
The e book dominated the 2010 Frankfurt Fair.
More accurately, the ´concept´ of the e book dominated Frankfurt. More than any specific ´we have to buy the rights toc title(s), it was the main concern of a substantial number of fair publishers.
Apple´s immediate iPad success forced publishers to face the fact that most of them were inadequately prepared to profit from the substantial increase of book sales in electronic formats generated by the device.
As one participant noted, the talk of the fair was "digital, digital, digital but none of the technology here works!" Publishers Weekly show daily newspaper, Friday October 8th.
We´re pretty certain the last observation refers to everyone´s frustration at the failure of the wi-fi connections provided on the hall floor to handle exhibitors´ demands. But it also represents the operable reality of this year´s fair: for most publishers, the e-book is a vast frontier that´s suddenly opened with no guiding landmarks: there are no standard contracts, no standard royalty rates not even an agreement on a standard digital format for the books. A perceptible number of exhibitors´ only product was taking books in their current print or digital forms and providing salable copies in each of the more than half-dozen digital formats in current commercial use.
We begin with these digital phenomena because they affected how the fair went for rights offers for printed books.
"A more focused Frankfurt" is the way The Bookseller Daily (British show trade newspaper) described the fair. That focus, though, was settling as many of the issues as possible inherent in digital formats. The U.K. publishing house Faber, for example, announced that they´d reached agreements with a dozen or so smaller (though not so small, actually) British houses to do all their e-book conversions, as well as the marketing and selling of those conversions for the publishers. The focus, accordingly, wasn´t necessarily on buying many rights.
David Lester, Chairman of Crimson Publishing, speaking to TBD on the fair Thursday: "We have been having serious meetings and people are looking to buy. They´re not buying lots [but] they know what they want and they´ve got money to spend."
Over the years, individual Frankfurt fairs have been models of several well-known patterns of human group patterns. The major issues of the 2009 Fair were perfect examples of the Self-fulfilling Prophecy many people assumed that general economic problems meant little to no business would be done at Frankfurt and either stayed home or came briefly and did little business. Both groups brought about through their behavior the condition they anticipated. This year, the digital uncertainties seem to drive editors and publishers to embrace old, familiar grounds. We didn´t see a single rights mega-sale reported in any of the fair newspapers; what were reported were a predominance of modest sales of fiction either for literary titles by established authors or fantasy titles the buyers hoped would be the ´next Harry Potter´, or the next ´vampire thing.´ There were only scattered reports of sales in other genres, including other genres of fiction.
Frankfurt this year was far better than the nadir year of 2009. PW assessed the 2010 fair this way: "Given the London Book Fair wipeout [due to the Icelandic volcanic eruptions], BookExpo and Frankfurt were always on course to be busy events. As it turned out, BEA was much as normal." [For some years now, that´s meant not good for rights sales.]
"Frankfurt is busier than the last couple of years but not mega-busy, though fair-goers seem happy enough with the way it´s playing out. For the first time since those pre-recessionary days of 2007, another age, there´s even a sense of optimism."
What was popular
We did reasonably well with reading copy requests from editors, publishers and agents for literary fiction. Requests in genre fiction were mostly for mysteries by authors with some track record. As usual, self-help titles were popular for requests. There was good interest in books for young adults. Overall, there were a number of reading copy requests among most genres.
We came back from Frankfurt with distribution contract offers for books in the areas of Animal Memoirs; Business; Current Affairs; Fantasy; Health; History; Literary Criticism; Mathematics; Memoirs; New Age & Metaphysical; Parenting; Philosophy; Photography; Religion and Spiritual; Self-Help and Travel.
Overall, these are much better results than those from the 2009 Frankfurt Fair. Increased attendance by Asian and Middle Eastern companies helped in this regard. Europeans are also using more of the fair to shop stands than they did last year.
Photos from the 2010 Frankfurt Fair
Promotion for the 2010 Fair on the floor of the entry to the main train station in downtown Frankfurt;
The Torhaus, the central structure of the fair ground facilities, taken from the S-Bahn platform at which most people arrive daily for the fair;
Audrey Hepburn and Bears, parts of stands located in Hall 8, the English language building;
One of several food service facilities taken from the International Titles stand, showing our central and visible location on the Hall 8 floor;
Irish publisher John Spillane of Mercier Press (Cork) and our IT associate Sunny Kelly;
We repay John´s visit at the end of a day to help Mercier celebrate its 55th consecutive year as a Frankfurt exhibitor.