F-F-F-Frankfurt • 30 September 2006 • The SnowBlog
The weekend before Frankfurt, and I'm worrying about luggage. We have about half a hundredweight of stuff to take over: copies of books that have only just arrived from the printer that couldn't be shipped earlier; catalogues, posters, and the fabulous CDs that James has made that contains our standalone rights guide website (I'll post a photo Monday morning because the design alone is worth it).
But we're clever about things now. This is our fourth Frankfurt which makes us old timers, and we have worked out the tricks to surviving it after a lot of trial and error. So here is my Top Ten Tips of how to have a successful Frankfurt if you're a small publisher.
1) Don't go it alone. The IPG stand is the best way to exhibit - not only do you get all the dull stuff done for you (they put up the stand and break it down) but you don't have to be there the whole time, plus you don't have to pay as much or try to get any sense out of the Frankfurt Bookfair organisers who are, let's say, tricksy.
2) Don't take hotel rates at face value. We stay in the middle of the red light district in the local equivalent of the YMCA for a fraction of what it costs to have a hotel room - but Frankfurt being Frankfurt, the red light district is all clean and well maintained and really quite charming - and ten minutes from the Fair.
3) If this is your first Frankfurt, ignore what your peers say. They'll say that it's impossible to start a new publishing company, and to save your money. They'll mean well, but they will be patronising and thoroughly unhelpful. Just ignore them.
4) Don't take a coat. It's roasting. Don't wear heels. I reckon I walk at least three miles a day - fast - down those grey corridors.
5) Don't expect to see anyone reading a book. Hah! This is business, people. We are trading, not visiting Hay on Wye. Sad but true.
6) Don't sit talking to your colleagues when someone's trying to catch your attention. You're there to engage with people from around the industry, not catch up on office politics. That means you, lady from Palgrave Macmillan who was so rude to me last year.
7) Do smile. It's nice to be nice.
8) Do turn up every day. It's tempting to just come for one day but it's a day of utter hell, trying to get around everyone at once. The best parts of Frankfurt are the serendipitous meetings, the chance happenings. Last year our shelf fell down, so we took turns standing in the aisle holding it up. We got a lot of funny looks - and a lot of conversations were started. At that same fair we were offered 8000 on the spot for a book by a publisher we'd never met - he just found our stand and liked what he saw. Magic!
9) If you're an author, don't go. That applies to London Book Fair too. Your time is better spent editing your work. The only possible outcome is negative; agents and publishers are there to talk to as many people in the trade as possible in a short space of time and if you get in their way you'll only make them cross. Stick to their submission guidelines and you'll stand a much better chance of them being in a good mood when they read your work. For once that's not just a Snowbooks perspective - it's what everyone thinks.
10) Do find the parties. One publisher last year had a hotel 40 miles away in the countryside - nice location but she missed out on so many conversations. Conversation is the whole point of attending.
So we'll keep you updated on how it goes!