Frankfurt: Europe is back in business

Frankfurt: Europe is back in business

Frankfurt Book Fair has witnessed a return to health in the European markets over the past three days, publishers and agents have told The Bookseller Daily.

More submissions have been bought by publishers from Scandinavia and Germany than in recent years and agents have reported European publishers have been quicker to snap up rights than the UK, in an FBF which has been hailed as moving from “strength to strength".

David Shelley, publisher at Little, Brown, said: “This year there seems to be a lot of really good novels from France, Germany and Italy being sold, which I guess says a lot about how much more receptive we are now to translated fiction in the UK.”

Suzanne Baboneau, m.d. of the adult publishing division for Simon & Schuster, agreed, adding that the fair had been one of its busiest in terms of submissions. “There seems to be a lot of European excitement, and a  lot of new submissions coming from Scandinavia.”

Felicity Blunt, agent at Curtis Brown, meanwhile, said it felt like Germany’s book market was one of the healthiest at the moment. “Germany and Italy are moving much quicker to claim rights than some of the English-language markets. I feel it is hard at the moment in the UK, because we have a problem with retailers. We are not seeing the numbers being brought into like we used to,” she said.

The European boom has led to a general feeling of “cautious optimism” at this fair, said Canongate m.d. and publisher Jamie Byng, also helped in part because the e-books business had now “settled down” and  publishers were less distracted by it. “Publishing is still a challenge, books can still be tough to sell and the big books are still getting bigger and bigger, so sometimes people don’t look as widely as they should,” he said.

HarperCollins c.e.o. Charlie Redmayne said HC was focused on finding “the right deals at the right price”, but hinted at escalating prices at FBF. “The fair is going from strength to strength and there certainly does seem to be more money around. Recently I have been quite surprised by some of the numbers my competitors have been prepared to pay—it certainly makes it tough. We want to find the right books at the right price and there have been some deals that I haven’t quite understood recently.”

However, not all publishing sectors were buoyant. John Saunders-Griffiths, foreign rights director at Octopus, said he didn’t think there was the same European optimism for illustrated titles as there might be for fiction. “I think Europe is still sleeping,” he said. “I do not think there are many European markets that are growing year on year for illustrated titles and certainly Scandinavia has been dropping. I think many markets need to see more recovery in their economies before they invest in new titles again.”