My Frankfurt Book Fair: Mary Darby

My Frankfurt Book Fair: Mary Darby

Noughties rap videos and currywurst are among the Darley Anderson rights supremo’s Frankfurt highlights to date, while she is rarely to be found without a sweet book fair staple...

My first Frankfurt Book Fair was in 2011. I was 26 and it was not only my first FBF, but my then manager’s. We worked 12-hour days in an obsessive haze during the lead-up; we had some big books, which was exciting but equally terrifying. The fair itself was amazing. Back-to-back meetings all day, then talking to everyone and anyone all night, returning home mere husks of ourselves but on a massive high. I knew I had found my place and I’m always so excited for people there for their first time.

I love working at Darley Anderson, because I get to bring so many incredible books to the fairs. Along with new books by the agency’s biggest names—from John Connolly’s The Dirty South, to B A Paris’ The Dilemma—Darley, Camilla [Bolton] and Tanera [Simons] have signed some hugely exciting new voices this year: two début highlights are Rage of Maidens (what a title!) by Faber Academy alumni Sinéad Desmond, and A Last Breath by R S Maxwell. Both are absolutely brilliant commercial débuts. We cannot wait to pitch them.

If you have a hot book at FBF you are beautifully busy. You achieve the impossible: making time in a packed schedule for unplanned meetings, finding somewhere quiet to do auction update emails, sharing passionate conversations with editors about your love for the book. The best thing about having a hot book is the buzz you get from everyone else, when editors from around the world see what you see in an author. And, of course, there’s the wonderful feeling of knowing the author will potentially earn great money! The hardest thing is the reality: there can only be one publisher in each territory, which means the majority of publishers will be disappointed. Difficult, but then there’s always the next hot book…

The best party I’ve been to at FBF? I don’t know if you could really call it a party, but it was 5 a.m. on the Saturday morning, in the very brightly-lit cigar room in the Hof. A scout, two other agents and I were dancing to YouTube videos of 1990s rap on a phone.

Frankfurt season gets longer every year. It’s hectic and stressful, and you’re tired by the time you arrive. But by then much of the hard work is done. The fair is about catching up with friends, meeting new people and sharing stories, so just remember to enjoy it! Plus, chocolate-covered raisins and a bottle of water will see you through anything.

Frankfurt has everything from excellent to truly terrible food. The best meal I ever had there was when Natalie Butlin (then at Christine Green, now at Bookouture) brought me currywurst and chips when she saw I had a gap in meetings. Thank you, Natalie—I will never forget that.