Earlier this month Laura and Tommi headed to Germany for the annual Frankfurt Book Fair. As a company we’ve been going to the fair for nearly 40 years and those who attend are well-versed in the Frankfurt experience. With that in mind, Laura has put together a Top 10 “best of” from this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair.
Best Part of the Drive
In recent years we have opted to drive down to Frankfurt, which doesn’t take as long as it seems like it might! The highlight of the trip is always the final section where we drive through the beautiful Rhine valley between Koblenz and Rüdesheim. The river is beautiful, the leaves are often just starting to turn into bright autumn colours and we always stop for some tasty goulash soup. We arrive in Frankfurt fresh and ready for the busy week ahead.
Most Interesting New Contact
We’ve long done business with the library supplier Starkmann who supply academic books to libraries mainly in Europe. However, we’d not met them in person until this year. We were delighted to meet with their Managing Director, Bernard Starkmann, and discover the uncanny similarities between our two companies: both were founded in the 1970s, passed from father to son management at around the same time and have bilingual managing directors. We were also very impressed that Bernard immediately recognised the artwork on the front of our new Multilingual Matters 2018/19 catalogue.
Most Established Contact
The Frankfurt Book Fair is a time for catching up with business contacts both long-standing, new and somewhere inbetween! There are many contenders for this section but a shout-out is definitely needed for John Benjamins, a fellow publisher of academic books on applied linguistics. Every year we stop by their stand and share a drink and a catch up with Seline Benjamins and her colleagues. Like us, their staff turnover is very low (once you find a good job in publishing you know not to leave it!) so it is nice to know that there will always be familiar friendly faces at their stand.
Noisiest Drinks Reception
Most evenings there are drinks receptions in the halls of the Frankfurt Book Fair which might take place when presses are launching new books, celebrating an anniversary or just having a sociable get together. As members of the Independent Publishers’ Guild, we tend to go to their reception which this year was in collaboration with the Australian Publishers’ Association. As we approached there seemed to be a noisier than usual hubbub and we were intrigued. On arrival we discovered that rather than ordering 24 crates of beer, the Australians had actually ordered just 24 bottles! You can imagine the outrage among tired and thirsty publishers. Luckily the order was rectified later in the evening and crates arrived to much cheer!
Most Exciting New Project
The Frankfurt Book Fair is an excellent opportunity to meet with like-minded publishers and to discuss the latest happenings and challenges surrounding academic publishing. This year we have been working hard to draw attention to the importance of rigorous peer review and are now working together with fellow university and academic publishers to create a way of recognising the high standards to which presses like ours adhere. The intention is to announce further details in January so watch this space!
Hotel prices in Frankfurt are astronomical during the book fair, so we stay in the village of Eschborn just a stone’s throw from the city. Over the years we have eaten our way round most of the eateries in Eschborn and one has emerged as our real favourite – a Croatian/German restaurant called Dalmatia. They have delicious classic German dishes such as Schnitzel and Apfelstrudel (sometimes with a Croatian twist) and always have seasonal Pfifferlinge (mushrooms) on the menu. However, this year Laura was mortified to see that the small portion of Bratkartoffeln (fried potatoes) that she ordered was marked on the bill as “Seniorenteller” (old person’s plate)!
Most Memorable Quote
The Frankfurt Book Fair is sometimes a time for hearing about changes in the trade (such as acquisitions, mergers and movements of staff). Speaking to one exhibitor who has recently returned to independent publishing following a spell at a corporate company was quite telling. They said that corporate companies over-train you, overpay you and underwhelm you. That may only be a small snippet from one experience but it certainly made us even more proud of our independence.
Most Popular Book
This year we published Speaking Up by Allyson Jule which is an accessible book on understanding language and gender. The book has been written with a broader audience in mind than that of our academic books which tend to have a market specific to those working in the education or tourism spheres. The academic books were certainly as popular as ever with our traditional bookselling contacts but Allyson Jule’s new book really caught the eye of the general public when the doors were opened to them at the weekend.
Most Entertaining Story
Alongside the business side of the book fair, there is plenty of catching up between publishers and contacts and sharing of stories and gossip. Mari Bergamon from EBSCO, one of our library ebook providers, said that she believes that tragedy + time = comedy. The next day we heard the story that a children’s book publisher recently had to retract a publication in which they’d listed their website with xxx in place of the real web address, meaning to fill in the correct details before press. Unfortunately, the publication went to print before they updated the link and they very quickly had to withdraw the material when they realised readers were being directed to an x-rated website! I wonder how long it will be until that is looked back on as comedy!
Most Meetings of the Fair
By the end of the fair we had attended 31 meetings, plus had numerous impromptu conversations with customers, contacts and publishers both at our stands and at various receptions. We were very happy to spend our Saturday evening with our author Greg Poarch and his family who cooked us an absolutely delicious dinner, certainly a rival to any restaurant food we’ve had this week. As much as we enjoy the fair, it is really nice to have a local contact and to spend some time talking about topics other than publishing. We hope that we were not too jaded company! Greg’s son Loic is hoping to come to Bristol in January to do some work experience with us and we are really looking forward to taking our turn at hosting.
For those that have never been to Frankfurt Book Fair and wonder what it’s like, last year Laura and Tommi filmed every aisle of every hall! Here’s the resultant video: