A proponent of powering through a packed Frankfurt Book Fair schedule, the former Hachette staffer says building international relationships—hopefully, requited ones—is the highlight of his fair.
My first Frankfurt Book Fair was exactly 10 years ago, while I was working at William Heinemann. I remember making a wonderful connection with an esteemed French publisher, which led to many months of animated correspondence and email camaraderie. Seeing them again was going to be the highlight of my fair two years later. I turned up bang on time for our meeting, sat down, smiled and said how nice it was to see them again, to which they responded: “I’m sorry, have we met?”
The best thing about FBF is selling. It’s exciting to discover new books at the fair, and always satisfying to return to the office having landed one of the hot Frankfurt titles that everyone is talking about. Given that a lot of the acquisitions happen in advance of the fair, though, the thing I tend to enjoy most is connecting with international editors and finding books for them from our own list. Taking an author and a book you love global is pretty exhilarating.
My book of this year’s fair is Joshua Wong’s Unfree Speech: The Threat to Global Democracy and Why Me Must Act, Now. Since signing him in June, we have sold rights in five territories, all of them pre-empts, and we are confident there is more to come for the first book in English by the Hong Kong protestor who has caught the world’s attention with his courage, impact and commitment to democracy.
My tip to survive the fair is... don’t have any breaks. It feels logical, when doing your schedule, to factor in at least a half hour off in the afternoon, but doing so will only lead to misery. If you pause to catch a breath, you collapse—best to just plough on through until it’s time to hit the Hof.
The people I look most forward to seeing at FBF are European editors I have published books with in the past, and friends from various fairs and fellowships. High on the list would be Richard Herold of Natur & Kultur and Martin Janik of Piper.
The best place to eat and drink in Frankfurt? I have no idea. Are there any? If you hear of any, please tell me...
The best party I’ve ever been at FBF? I couldn’t quite say, but having returned to Penguin Random House from Hachette in April, I’m looking forward to attending the Bertelsmann reception after missing it for the best part of a decade.
In 50 years’ time, what will Frankfurt be like? We will probably be recovering and rebuilding from the apocalypse or some climate change disaster but FBF will, of course, still continue. I envisage full printed manuscripts, offers scrawled on bits of slate, carrier-pigeons everywhere, and each editor will carry their own makeshift abacus.