Publishers look to Frankfurt after missed connections at LBF
21.04.10 | The Bookseller News Team
The Frankfurt Book Fair could benefit directly from the travel chaos that has engulfed London, with a number of fair-goers—and those who were unable to attend—saying they had reprioritised the event in early October in a bid to hold face-to-face meetings. Ironically UK air-space opened up today (21st April) the last day of London Book Fair after a week of unprecedented disruption.
While those who did attend said between 50%–80% of meetings had been cancelled, the business impact was thought to be relatively small, with some deals done online. However, widespread absences served to highlight the importance of physical contact, with exhibitors looking at FBF and US trade show Book Expo America as alternatives.
Faber chief executive Stephen Page said: “Frankfurt will have a bigger role in maintaining these relationships,” but he did not regard BEA as “a credible alternative”. Simon & Schuster publisher Suzanne Baboneau agreed, saying: “BEA is a very different kind of fair—it’s more about booksellers. It’s not a rights fair, it’s not a substitute for London or Frankfurt.”
Isabelle Bleecker, international rights manager for the Perseus Book Group, said: “We have been asked for meetings at BEA already from people that might not have come before. I think it’s going to be busy. As will Frankfurt.”
Publishers stressed the importance of the show for meetings. Morgan Entrekin of Grove Atlantic, who was stranded in New York for the duration of the fair, told The Bookseller: “Mail, phone and fax have made our work easier but there is nothing like being together personally. It’s so important to create word of mouth.”
Others who had been unable to make LBF concurred. “Digital developments make a lot of things redundant that we are used to. But there will always be the need for book fairs because the personal contact is a factor that shouldn’t be underestimated,” said Marco Schneiders, editorial director at German publisher Lübbe.
Although business was subdued, a number of major deals were signed, including Headline’s acquisition of When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman—world rights bought by Leah Woodburn for a “significant six-figure sum”. Struck through Robert Caskie of PFD, this deal was seen as one of the fair’s biggest. It is a coming-of-age story seen through the eyes of a young girl.
Speaking of the second day agent Patrick Walsh said: “Its picked up a lot today, I’m changing my mind there is more going on than I thought.”