Filing into the Frankfurt Book Fair 32 publishing students from Oxford Brookes University were unprepared for what was waiting for us in the halls beyond. Hundreds upon thousands of people filled the venue, all from different parts of the world.
We had been told time and again by our lecturers to network – talk with everyone, do our research on who would be there. But there were over a thousand publishing houses! The Frankfurt Book Fair is one of the only times rights and sales managers are able to meet with their global partners. One minute they’d be talking with someone from China and the next, a person from America. Their diaries are full, but our lecturers organised appointments for us with publishers, and we were grateful for the chance to talk with them on a day like this. In addition we found that we could often chat to some of the smaller publishers on an ad-hoc basis throughout the day.
The guest-of-honour country this year was Indonesia. In the forum an interactive exhibition was held with luminous lanterns and tables filled with books to showcase the country. We were presented with published works of their historical, political and economical background, as well as a section of animated design characters. The Frankfurt Book Fair even invited Wandi S Brata from Gramedia Pustaka Utama who discussed the book trade, rights, and the markets in Indonesia. I was amazed and it left me thinking about different market sectors, domestically and internationally, that affect us.
This thinking bled over into the other halls. Throughout the fair I noticed a common market target: children’s and gift books (pointed towards the coming Christmas season) dominated the stands. It is obvious to see the reasons behind these targets, but what will be the next big trend? We saw the literary world explode with novels on cats, vampires, zombies, you name it – so what will the coming season bring? The short answer: no one knows! That’s what makes publishing fun!
The sheer volume of the whole fair was overwhelming, but what I loved was the spontaneity of the day - the fact that even in a different country’s hall interesting titles sidetracked me. I got to find out what it takes to become a publisher and the best advice I received was from Margaret S from Palgrave, whose words of wisdom I will leave you with: “A publisher eats a lot and drinks [wine] a lot, and if you don’t like that, you’re in the wrong industry.”
Isabella Anton is an MA Publishing student at Oxford Brookes.