As part of a series of guest posts from the desks of UW Press staffers, Intellectual Property Manager Puja Boyd walks us through her recent trip to the Frankfurt Book Fair in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, from October 14-18, 2015:
Every October, as the weather cools and the leaves fall, my inbox goes through its typical seasonal swell. Invitations to cocktail receptions. Solutions to technology problems. Requests for rights sheets. Reminders to check in for that cozy 10-hour flight to Amsterdam. As the days number down to the world’s largest gathering of publishing professionals, rights managers around the globe spruce up their uniforms (and most comfortable shoes) for the endurance event of the year: The Frankfurt Book Fair.
This was my fifth ‘Messe’ and my first with the new orientation for US publishers. In years past, most US publisher booths were laid out in Hall 8 of the sprawling 11-building messe complex, allowing us sprinting distance (via moving walkways) to our colleagues in Halls 4-6 and a slightly longer commute to the festivities that honor each year’s international guest. We had the luxury of being placed closer to the action this year, and the challenge of re-learning our well-worn pathways to the S-Bahn, to the café, and of course, to the nearest bathrooms.
As with any large gathering, the book fair offers publishers the unique opportunity to connect with colleagues across the full spectrum of the book world. Everyone from authors to publicists, printers to metadata experts, literary agents to proofreaders have a temporary place to call home at Frankfurt, and we keep busy in the hive of activity for the first three days of the event. By Saturday, the doors to the Messe open to the public and we, jetlagged and a little tired, are greeted by hordes of young readers who ambush the stalls dressed as their favorite literary characters. This has the emotional equivalent of a stranger handing you an ice-cold lemonade on the 20th mile of a hot, desert marathon.
After three days of meetings and dinners, the publishing community gets to witness the sheer aliveness of its supporters, and it’s that kind of energy that jolts us into planning the next year’s schedule. Surrounded by so many beautiful books, in so many languages, I am reminded of how great it feels to be a reader.
Highlights from the UWP booth include sharing forthcoming titles with agents based in China, Taiwan, and Korea; introducing a new mountaineering book to a Canadian publisher, and participating in the International Convention of University Presses in addition to the usual smattering of technology meetings, trading notes with colleagues, and the lucky happenstance conversations that seem to only occur at the Messe.
Publishers around the world seem to be facing the same struggles—online sales, international distribution, the loss of bookstores—but remain optimistic about new opportunities including micro-fiction (writing designed to be read on a smartphone) and cultivating collaborative partnerships to increase reach overseas.
I came away from this year’s meeting with a suitcase full of new business cards, a new favorite restaurant in Römerplatz, and the insatiable desire to be in a bookstore. Lucky for me, a new colleague had already suggested the perfect read for the long trip home.