My Frankfurt: Lucy Hale

My Frankfurt: Lucy Hale

Sales supremo Lucy Hale tells Roger Tagholm about how Frankfurt meetings have changed, racing Jamie Hodder Williams and communicating with modern dance.

Don’t ask me what number Frankfurt this is for me. I don’t care to remember how long ago it was that I first came, but I had to borrow my sister’s smart red dress and it had huge shoulder pads—that should give a clue! I was on reception at Macmillan and was there at 7.30 a.m., all ready, and I was rather surprised when others staggered in at nine with wet hair. The early start is a habit that I’ve kept ever since, whatever happened the night before...

I enjoy the fair, Frankfurt is fascinating. You see your whole life passing before you; you see a procession of former bosses and colleagues, the ghosts of publishing past, present and, hopefully, future.

Preparing for Frankfurt used to be very stressful, with a big planning session with my husband (who also travelled) to ensure we didn’t leave our daughters home alone. Now my eldest would definitely like to be home alone, and is more concerned about what I bring back from duty free. How things change.

I take the train now, which has been such a good move. It’s much nicer. You don’t have to see everyone you’ve ever known in publishing at 7 a.m. at Heathrow when, however much you like them, you don’t feel like talking. There are lots of trains you can catch, and you can just hide yourself away.

Our stands have been rather famous over the years. The Hachette presence has morphed from a collection of stands in a village arrangement to a smart Manhattan skyline with the famous Hachette tower. I love sharing a stand with our US colleagues.

What makes Frankfurt special is that it is genuinely lovely to catch up with friends from every era in my publishing life from around the world. I count many customers as dear friends and miss them when they retire or we lose them. And some friends—like [Midas PR co-founder] Tony Mulliken, who I first met many decades ago—don’t appear to have changed at all. He has a portrait in the attic, I think.

I always pack my running kit. There’s nothing like clearing your head at the end of the day, post-appointments and pre-dinner. The run along the river is stunning. There’s a group of us who go in fact: myself, Jamie Hodder Williams and Carolyn Mays. Of course, Jamie always has to win...

I used to actually take orders from customers at Frankfurt. And it was always a delight when the Booker Prize coincided, but these days it is more likely to be a business discussion than an order secured. Less satisfying, but no less important.

You always meet interesting people. I used to meet with a Japanese gentleman who wore a Tam o’ Shanter hat. He spoke no English, I spoke no Japanese, but we managed to communicate through a series of modern dance movements. One of my happiest meetings at the fair was when we sold cricketer Sachin Tendulkar’s memoirs to our Indian customers, with the m.d. of Hachette India, Thomas Abraham. Sheer joy.

This will be everyone’s second year in Hall 6. It is really about the people, not the habitat, but I think the new hall is airy and closer to the hotels, so it’s all good with me.

One party that stays with me took place a couple of years ago. We were celebrating the publication of David Nicholls’ Us with its German publisher on a London double-decker bus, touring night-time Frankfurt, complete with a Maraca band. Bizarre, but incredibly stylish and fun. We all remember The Book People dinners and Ted [Smart] and Seni [Glaister’s] generosity. It’s quite a feat to get the c.e.o.s of UK and US publishing around a table until 2 a.m.!

We usually stay in the Steigenberger by the Hauptbahnhof. It’s convenient now I get the train, and the barman, who I hope never retires, always seems to remember my favourite drink.

Table essentials include some Hairy Lemons. No, it’s not what those bikers put in their tequilas; Hairy Lemons were introduced to me by Paul Kenny, who runs the Hachette Far East office. They are “energy recovery stamina tablets”. In other words, a hangover cure.

In 50 years’ time, Frankfurt will have adapted to whatever the market has thrown at it, because it’s a celebration of the very essence of international publishing.

Lucy Hale is group sales director for Hodder, Headline, Quercus and Hachette Children's.