IBPA Report from the 2015 Frankfurt Book Fair

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October 30, 2015

(BLOG POST)


By Mimi Le, IBPA Project Coordinator/Member Benefits Specialist –

What is the Frankfurt Book Fair?

Months before the Frankfurt Book Fair, many IBPA members called the IBPA office and asked, “What is the Frankfurt Book Fair and why should I participate?”

One could pull the generic description from the Buchmesse official website and recite, “The Frankfurt Book Fair is a meeting place for the industry’s experts and the most important marketplace for books, media, rights and licenses worldwide. Be they publishers, booksellers, agents, film producers or authors – each year in October, they all come together and create something new.”

However, that doesn’t address the root of the question, which is: “Why should I (an independent publisher/self-published author) care about the Frankfurt Book Fair?”

As the book industry sees a growth in self-published and independently published books (according to Bowker, “self-published titles in 2013 increased to more than 458,564, up 17 percent over 2012 and 437 percent over 2008”), gaining traction – whether it be getting into more libraries and bookstores, receiving more interest by the media, or selling/buying foreign rights and licenses – proves to be harder than ever as the competition grows more fierce.

One of the many show floors at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

One of the many show floors at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

What makes the Frankfurt Book Fair so unique compared to other trade shows is that it provides a unique opportunity for publishers (both big and small) to trade rights face-to-face. Furthermore, it is a gathering place of the largest international professional crowd. Put these two factors together and you see why attending the Frankfurt Book Fair is so important.

IBPA understands though, that not everyone has the time and resources to attend, which is why we are happy to support members’ books on their behalf at the Frankfurt Book Fair. IBPA is pleased to offer members the opportunity to display their books in our Cooperative Booth, or to reserve a booth of their own at the 2016 Frankfurt Book Fair. Members can learn more about these options here.

IBPA at the 2015 Frankfurt Book Fair

On October 14-18, 2015, the Frankfurt Book Fair brought 140,474 book professionals to Frankfurt, Germany (a 2.3% increase over the 140,291 who were at the event last). A part of that total attendance was IBPA’s Chief Operations Officer, Terry Nathan, and Project Coordinator, Mimi Le. On behalf of IBPA, they crossed the Atlantic Ocean to represent one hundred ninety-two (192) member titles (up from 179 titles represented in 2014). This year marked IBPA’s 30th year at the world’s largest book fair.

IBPA Cooperative Booth @ the 2015 Frankfurt Book Fair

IBPA Cooperative Booth @ the 2015 Frankfurt Book Fair

During the Fair, Terry met with 40 foreign rights buyers and Mimi took 23 walk-in appointments. 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.

A complete catalog of titles represented in IBPA’s cooperative booth is available online and will be sent in a follow-up email to all IBPA’s foreign rights contacts. To take a look at each book displayed, check out the photo album on Facebook. Members displaying in the IBPA booth recently received a report of all of meetings and interest experienced at this year’s show.

Selling your rights to an international buyer can be complex, but extremely rewarding. For those interested in sharpening their skills in this area, a special educational webinar with Cat Russo, President and Founder of RussoRights, LLC., described below, is currently available to view through IBPA’s institution on OpenLearning.com. IBPA members can login to OpenLearning here.


The Frankfurt Book Fair… So Now What Happens?

CatRusso2The Frankfurt Book Fair is the single largest international rights sales event in book publishing. Each year, many independent publishers display their titles and catalogs at the show in IBPA’s cooperative booth. Those who do look forward to receiving the collected leads, but then it becomes up to them, the publishers, to take the next step. So, how to proceed?

In this special IBPA prerecorded session, rights specialist Cat Russo (photo left) provides tips and advice on how to follow up from the Frankfurt Book Fair in order to move translation and other subsidiary rights agreements forward. Cat Russo is president of RussoRights, LLC a small firm representing business and education publishers.

(Members who participated with IBPA in the 2015 Frankfurt Book Fair can e-mail Mimi Le to be signed up directly to this Openlearning course free-of-charge. Other members pay only $19).


IBPA’s general counsel, Jonathan Kirsch, has also developed a sample foreign rights licensing contract for IBPA members. The contract is included in our official Membership Benefits Handbook, available upon request.

Supporting Our Partners

Stephen Buda of J. Ross Publishing  (left) with John Atkin of Silvermine International (right)

Stephen Buda of J. Ross Publishing (left) with John Atkin of Silvermine International

Terry (left) with longtime friend, Ray Bennett

Terry (left) with longtime friend, Ray Bennett

In addition to representing our members’ titles in the cooperative booth, we were equally privileged to have been joined on the show floor by those members who chose to purchase a private booth through IBPA.

Special thanks to Ethan Atkin at Cranbury International, Sabine Weeke at Findhorn Press, Brooke O’Donnell, Joe Matthews, and Mark Voigt at Independent Publishers Group, Stephen Buda at J. Ross Publishing, Maria Kjoller at Lerner Publishing Group, Bill Krause at Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd., Dorothy Smyk at New Harbinger Publications, Jim Schmelzer at Publishers’ Services International, John Atkin at Silvermine International Books, and Valerie Pierce, Dominique Raccah and Sara Hartman-Seeskin at Sourcebooks.

By signing up to host their own booth with IBPA, these members received free freight to the Fair in addition to booth support on site. We look forward to hosting them again in 2016!

Beyond the “Trade” Visitors

The Frankfurt Book Fair isn’t only known for pulling in the largest professional crowd. This year, like many years before it, consumers were invited to attend the last two days of the fair. The internationally renowned publishing trade fair also offered free admission to refugees and provided guides who spoke their language, in light of the massive arrival of refugees in Germany. According to Frankfurt officials, consumers made up a little less than half of the 275,791 total attendance this year.

Walking down the exhibit halls, these “non-trade” visitors were hard to miss. Dressed in their favorite characters from animated films, comics, books, and manga, their presence transformed the book fair into a magical world similar to that of the books that were on display.

Do you know who they are dressed as? If you do... let us know!

Do you know who they are dressed as? If you do… let us know!

We saw many people wearing a "Free Hugs" sign!

We saw many people wearing a “Free Hugs” sign!

According to the official press release:

“The weekend proved that true fans of literature are not put off by cold weather. Visitors thronged in front of the Star Wars Poetry Slam in the newly designed Agora. In the heated Reading Tent, literary stars like Jenny Erpenbeck attracted such large crowds that the doors had to be closed for some periods. And the cosplayers in their imaginative outfits made sure that the Book Fair weekend will remain in people’s memories as a colourful and diverse festival of literature.”

Indeed, they did!

Final Thoughts

Terry (left) meeting with a foreign rights agent from China

Terry (left) meeting with a foreign rights agent from China

Mimi (left) taking notes during an appointment.

Mimi (left) taking notes during an appointment.

There was a lot of speculation going into the Frankfurt Book Fair whether this year’s Fair was going to see a decline in total attendance like the year before. Last year, Frankfurt officials reported that 140,291 trade visitors attended the 2014 fair, down from the 142,921 professional visitors attending the 2013 fair (a decline of less than 2%). With the release of this year’s official show report however, it is clear that the Frankfurt Book Fair is making a comeback and may see a steady increase next year.

Juergen Boos, director of the Book Fair, detected euphoria in the industry as a whole, stating in the official report: “2015 has been the busiest and most successful Book Fair for years! Exhibitors from all the different regions told me the same thing time and again in our personal talks.”

In Hall 6, where IBPA was located with other English-speaking publishers, similar talks were taking place as we experienced a good amount of traffic through our aisles. Terry was completely booked all four days with pre-arranged appointments while Mimi assisted everyone who stopped by the cooperative booth. We were happy to see a number of folks enter our booth, expressing interest in the titles on display!

Check out what some of the other industry folks are saying about this year’s fair:

Publishers Weekly
Shelf Awareness
More from Shelf Awareness

IBPA at the 2016 Frankfurt Book Fair

We’ll be back next year! From left to right: IBPA’s Chief Operations Officer, Terry Nathan, and Project Coordinator, Mimi Le.

We’ll be back next year! From left to right: IBPA’s Chief Operations Officer, Terry Nathan, and Project Coordinator, Mimi Le.

Next year, the Frankfurt Book Fair will take place Oct. 19 – Oct. 23, 2016. IBPA is happy to announce our attendance at next year’s Fair and look forward to displaying your title in our cooperative booth! More information about IBPA’s Trade Show Exhibit Programs is available here. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail us at info@ibpa-online.org or call our office at (310) 546-1818.

9 responses to “IBPA Report from the 2015 Frankfurt Book Fair”

  1. Peter Goodman says:

    Great report! Sounds like fun and a great service IBPA continues to provide to all its members! Thanks for going and sharing!

    Peter G

  2. Peter Goodman says:

    Mimi, Terry: were there any publishing subject areas / formats/ audiences that were of stronger interest to foreign buyers? Which countries seemed the most active in acquiring?

  3. Carol Ascher says:

    Thank you for your report on the Frankfurt Book Fair. However, for me, it remained much too general: no information on the types of books that generated interest, or the books that were sold, etc.

    I am still eager to hear whether you were able to talk to visitors to the booth about my novel, A CALL FROM SPOONER STREET, whose main character is an emigre German Professor, and which therefore ought to have been particularly interesting to German and Austrian publishers.

    Best regards,

    Carol Ascher

  4. Eric Roth says:

    Thank you for sharing your positive experiences and professional insights about the Frankfurt Book Fair and selling foreign rights. We didn’t take advantage of this opportunity this year, but we will definitely participate for 2016. Our niche books primarily focus on English language learners, and we have previously sold a few foreign rights. We can and should, however, do much better. IBPA seems like a precious resource that we have overlooked for too long.

  5. Thank you Terry and Mimi for representing my children’s book “Mama Bird Papa Bird.” After reading the first couple of pages of the Report for Single Title Displays, there was one request for my book. After several minutes of trying to contain myself while tearfully reading forward, several more requests appeared, totaling SIX countries! In a word: speechless. Looking forward to seeing you all in Salt Lake City for the 38th Annual IBPA Convention! Be blessed!

  6. Thank you very much for displaying our book entitled “Men Like Allama Mashriqi Are Born Once In Centuries: A Collection of Articles” at the Frankfurt Book Fair (October 2015). Thanks for your report on the FBF.
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  7. Terry says:

    Great suggestion, Peter. Self-help, psychology, inspirational, business and health-related titles remain strong, and this year we saw increased interest in children’s and fiction titles. Hit and miss were history, biography and autobiography. And it’s no surprise that agents and international publishers are always interested in our best sellers.

  8. John Kremer says:

    Thanks, Terry, for the report. I’m glad the international book industry is doing well.

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