My Frankfurt Book Fair: Natalie Jerome, Curtis Brown

My Frankfurt Book Fair: Natalie Jerome, Curtis Brown

The literary agent of Sir Lenny Henry and David Harewood on her best Frankfurt memories—and why Berlin is the perfect preparation for the annual fair. 

“An actual business trip, I’m going on an actual business trip!” That’s what I thought on my first visit to Frankfurt. For a book editor who never normally never got to go anywhere, I recall being tremendously excited at the prospect of an overseas trip that I didn’t have to pay for.

What I’ll miss the most about not going to this year’s FBF absolutely has to be the speed-dating book chat. Table to table in 30-minute slots being pitched at (or to) in rapidfire succession. There’s nothing quite like it! (Though I have never speed-dated in real life.) 

Who do I most enjoy bumping into at the fair? That’s a mean question; it’s impossible to choose one person  when you have been in publishing as long as I have! Though I do always enjoy seeing my American friends, as there is no language barrier and plenty of easy pop culture reference chat. 

Though I won’t be at the fair in-person, I’ll be following along online. I always want to know what’s new and upcoming, plus I enjoy reading opinion pieces about the industry. 

I’m excited that the Curtis Brown rights team is taking David Harewood’s memoir Maybe I Don’t Belong Here to the fair, and Pan Macmillan will no doubt be pitching Sir Lenny Henry’s first middle-grade fiction The Boy with Wings hard. I know this because he is the front-cover star of its children’s rights catalogue. 

The best Frankfurt party I’ve been to? Actually it was the same party each year...  it was at a place where you had to get behind one of those rope things to get in. It had a smoke machine inside and it was permanently 1987. Everyone on the dancefloor wore glasses and there was free white wine. That party. 

My favourite place in Frankfurt for a drink? I always seem to end up at the bar where people could smoke inside, so again, we’re in 1987. (NB—I don’t smoke.) 

My top tips for surviving Frankfurt are: drink lots of water; bring a printed schedule as well as one on your phone, in case you run out of battery; and schedule slots in between meetings for work calls back home—and eat. If you can swing it so that you can get the train to Berlin and stay for a couple of days pre- or post-Frankfurt, I highly recommend it. Someone once mentioned you should take flat shoes for all of the walking around the fair—but I’m five foot four and, like Prince, I’m small enough as it is.