INDUSTRY KNOWHOW Book Fairs


In a new dedicated series, Janne Moller, Rights Manager at Black & White Publishing, shares her experience of book fairs and her advice for authors and illustrators. First up, it’s the Frankfurt Book Fair which takes place in October.

As a rights manager, I’ve been going to book fairs for over 15 years to meet with as many editors from around the world as possible to sell translation rights for our books. I meet with scouts, agents, editors and I start booking appointments for Frankfurt around June. So now is a great time to start thinking about what you might do if you were to go!

1. Frankfurt is, first of all, a trade fair. 
Publishers will be busy. They will have booked in back-to-back meetings all day long – literally from breakfast until dinner, with very few breaks. This means that Frankfurt is not the kind of fair where an author can arrive and try to speak to publishers at their stands. They simply won’t have time!

2. Do your homework first. 
If you do want to go, try to set up as many pre-booked appointments as you can. Get in touch with publishers and ask for a meeting at least 2-3 months in advance.

3. Take a closer look at the programme 
If you aren’t ready to book meetings or if you would simply like to visit the fair, there is a public programme. Talks with authors, workshops and seminars take place over the course of the fair. Remember a lot of these will be in German! On the last day, the space opens to the public and it’s more like a book festival. Authors will be around for these events but most publishers will have left by then.

4. This is a huge fair! 
Frankfurt is one of the biggest book fairs with eight to ten halls – it takes about half an hour to walk from one end to the other! Try to get a sense of the set-up and maybe the specific countries you’d like to see, and know which hall they will be in. Certainly, prepare yourself a little bit otherwise it can be really overwhelming just to turn up. It can be inspirational to walk around.

5. Be realistic about what you’re there to do 
Think about what you are hoping to get out of visiting the Frankfurt Book Fair. With publishers busy with meetings, you won’t be able to share any work from your portfolio or give a pitch. The fair is based on furthering trade and is industry-led, rather than author-led. Of course, it is really inspiring and interesting to go but just be sure your expectations are in the right place.

6. Book fairs drive up prices 
Travel and accommodation books up quickly with this big event on. Be aware that it is an expensive time to find accommodation and it sells out fast. On all accounts, plan your visit as early as possible! 

7. Do your homework there, pitch later 
Alternatively, you can flip this the other way and use Frankfurt for research. Walk around the halls and familiarise yourself with who is there and who would be best for you to approach with your writing. Make notes, ask questions and then, when you’re back home, think about your pitch and get ready to send your emails.

In summary, really think about what you are wanting to get out of the fair, and why you would be going. Are you ready to ask for meetings? Is it more about taking a look at the industry and familiarising yourself with the event? Whatever you choose to do, Frankfurt is a bustling event in the literary calendar and sure to leave a lasting impression!

Main image credit: German Book Fair 
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Janne Moller has been Rights Manager at Black & White Publishing for 14 years and has been attending book fairs for almost 20 years. Born in Denmark, she has lived in Edinburgh for 15 years. Books she has worked on at Black & White include Estelle Maskame’s Did I Mention I Love You? series and The Year After You by Nina de Pass published under the B&W YA imprint, Ink Road.

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