IBPA Report from the 2013 Frankfurt Book Fair
By Angela Bole, IBPA Executive Director–
Anyone who says the book industry is dead has never been to the Frankfurt Book Fair! During the 2013 Fair, held October 9-13 in Frankfurt, Germany, over 7,300 exhibitors and 276,000 visitors convened in Frankfurt’s Messe (Messe = “Fair”) for international conversations about the book, both public and private.
IBPA’s COO, Terry Nathan, was on hand to talk with foreign rights buyers about the 133 titles featured in IBPA’s cooperative booth. Over the course of the Fair’s three professional days, he met with buyers from 24 countries and recorded 112 requests for book copies to consider for foreign rights purchase. The photo right shows the IBPA cooperative booth (and Terry’s “desk”) before all the meetings made a mess of it!
At the same time, I was busy meeting with potential IBPA benefits providers and partners. The tenor of my meetings can be summed up as, “We can cooperate, not just compete.” Everyone I spoke with seemed generally interested in helping to bring increased value to your IBPA membership.
More on IBPA meetings later. First, let’s explore three major themes from the Fair.
No. 1: Digital – What Else?
No matter what country you live in, if you work in the book business you’re grappling with the digital transition. Some countries are more advanced than others, but everyone has a point of view. That said, whereas in year’s past the digital conversation could feel quite panicked, the mood at Frankfurt in 2013 was much calmer. Yes, the “future of the book [might be] on the web,” as Sasha Lobo from SoBooks (photo right) told us during his keynote address at the CONTEC Conference, but that doesn’t mean we’re in need of a fire sale.
“I think people were getting very excited about the second wave of digital three or four years ago, but they’re used to it now,” said Ingram’s David Taylor (photo left). “There was a huge wave of digital models, but I’ve seen far fewer this year – it has stabilized. And I don’t know any publisher who has said they will only do digital. They all want to do both now, but increasingly they don’t want to do print in the old ways. They want POD, tied into distribution. Nobody wants money tied-up in inventory.”
No. 2: The Battle for Consumer Attention…
Several years ago, I started talking about what I saw as the “Angry Birds Problem”. This was the idea that as more and more readers gravitate away from dedicated reading devices – whether this be a print book or a dedicated e-reader – to multi-use tablets, book publishers will begin to compete not just with each other, but with a whole host of mixed media options. Angry Birds was the culprit de jour at the time.
Today it might be any number of videos and games. It is now as Markus Dohle, CEO of Random House Penguin (the largest publisher in the world) put it during a panel, “We want [readers] to choose books in the future and not Netflix.”
Of course, Dohle went on to acknowledge this is “a big task.”
…and the Rise of Self-Publishing (No. 3)
Even so, it’s a task all of us who love books must take on. During another panel, this one entitled Self-Publishing and It’s Implications for the Industry, Amazon’s Jon Fine (photo below) inferred that the current battle for consumer attention is one of the main reasons maintaining open channels for independent publishers and self-published authors is so crucial. Fine said:
“In a world where you have so much com¬pet¬ing for your attention—movies, music, video games, the whole nine yards—to make it as easy as possible for people to get to books, both buy¬ing them and then access¬ing them after they buy them, is huge. It’s absolutely essential as we move forward.”
It should be noted that, according to Fine, 25% of Amazon’s top 100 sellers are self-published e-books.
I was thrilled to see that most people I spoke with acknowledged self-publishing to be, less and less, a vanity affair. It’s hard to get statistics on the U.S. market, but Books on Demand’s Florian Geuppert presented results from his survey of 1,800 of their 25,000 authors in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, and Scandinavia. About 1/3 of the 1,800 said they made a conscious choice against traditional publishing. It seems that, more and more, self-publishing is becoming a viable option, rather than just a fallback option.
Interestingly, the main reasons cited by the authors in Geuppert’s study for choosing self-publishing over the traditional route:
- Creative freedom
- Shorter time to market
- It’s fun!
I particularly love that last reason…
Meanwhile, On the Show Floor
Even though 276,000 visitors was apparently a 2% decline from the year before, you could still feel plenty of energy on the Frankfurt Book Fair show floor (photo left).
At the end of day, of course, Frankfurt is essentially a place to come if you’re in the market to buy or sell book rights. In fact, the chief responsibility of Terry Nathan, IBPA’s COO, was to present IBPA member titles from our cooperative booth to foreign rights buyers. One hundred thirty-three (133) IBPA member titles were showcased this year. A complete catalog is available online and will be sent in a follow-up email to all IBPA’s foreign rights contacts.
Each meeting with a foreign rights buyer lasts 15-30 minutes. The first thing to be done is to get a sense of a particular area of interest. Interest areas are generally very narrow. Sometimes we have many titles for them to consider; sometimes just a few. In rare cases, we won’t have anything at all. But, like everything else in this business, it’s a matter of building relationships.
Selling your rights to an international buyer can be complex, but extremely rewarding. For those of you with interest, there are several articles previously published in IBPA’s Independent magazine about the beginning, middle, and continuing stages of working with international publishers.
In addition, IBPA members can download a sample form for help developing a contract for licensing foreign and translation rights by a U.S. publisher to a foreign publisher when the U.S. publisher controls foreign and translation rights in a work. See the Foreign Rights section of our Membership Benefits Handbook for more information.
And, Of Course, There Were the Meetings
While Terry was busy with rights agents, I was able to meet with IBPA member benefit providers and potential partners. In the photo right, for example, I’m meeting with Apple’s Ian Wallace.
People were incredibly generous with their time and ideas for collaboration. We look forward to rolling out some new projects in the coming year directly steaming from these conversations.
Here’s a list of some of the companies I met with at the Fair:
- Author Solutions
- Book Industry Study Group (BISG)
- BookExpo America
- Bowker Identifier Services
- Copyright Clearance Center (CCC)
- ForeWord Reviews
- Independent Publishers Group (IPG)
- Independent Publsihers Guild (IPG)
- Ingram Publisher Services
- International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF)
- Legato Publishers Group
- London Book Fair
- ONIX Suite
- Publishers Weekly
- Yale Publishing Course
- And more!…
IBPA is extremely privileged to be able to represent our members’ titles at the Frankfurt Book Fair each year. We’re equally privileged to be joined by those members who choose to purchase a private or shared booth through IBPA.
Special thanks to Ethan Atkin of Cranbury International, Thierry Bogliolo of Findhorn Press, Pat Conte of Gryphon House, Jean Trumbull of Impact Publishers, Susan Sewall of Independent Publishers Group, Stephen Buda of J. Ross Publishing, Maria Kjoller of Lerner Publications, Mary Rudd of Llewellyn Worldwide, Dorothy Smyk of New Harbinger Publications, Jessica Tribble of Poisoned Pen Press, Jim Schmelzer of PSI/Publishers Services International, John Atkin of Silvermine International, and Valerie Pierce of Sourcebooks for signing up to host a booth with us this year. We hope to host you again in 2014!
Photo above: The 2013 Frankfurt IBPA Booth Crew (l to r): Bronwyn Emery (Publishing Assistant, Hunter House), Angela Bole (Executive Director, IBPA), Terry Nathan (COO, IBPA).
More information about IBPA’s Trade Show Exhibit Programs is available here.
About the Author: Just before Angela became IBPA’s Executive Director, she was Deputy Executive Director of the Book Industry Study Group, Inc. (BISG), which fosters conversation and consensus across all sectors of the book business. Before that, Angela served for two years as BISG’s Associate Director and two years as its Marketing and Communications Manager.
Angela also serves as Treasurer on the Board of Directors of IDPF, the International Digital Publishing Forum.