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News & Press: Trade Show News

IBPA Report from the 2018 Frankfurt Book Fair

Thursday, November 8, 2018   (0 Comments)
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Frankfurt Book Fair: The Grandaddy of Them All

By Terry Nathan, IBPA Chief Operations Officer –

A panoramic view of IBPA's cooperative booth at the 2018 Frankfurt Book Fair on "setup day" - the day before the Fair officially opened (notice no carpet in the aisle...yet!)

Every October my body clicks into gear. It’s time for the Frankfurt International Book Fair – the Grandaddy of them all! I first attended the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1992, seven or eight years after IBPA (then called Publishers Marketing Association) started displaying members’ titles. I have been back almost every year since, missing just a few years when my kids were young. To put this in perspective, IBPA started attending the Frankfurt Book Fair long before the Berlin Wall came down, and I started just after it fell. The relationships I’ve made during this time have been life changing. Even better, I keep adding new, interesting people to my worldwide network of book lovers! I see these people as part of my family and look forward to catching up with them every year.

IBPA COO Terry Nathan (right) with Leann Garms of Build.Buzz.Launch. Media & Publishing at the 2018 Frankfurt Book Fair

This year I was joined in the IBPA cooperative booth by IBPA member Leann Garms of Build.Buzz.Launch. Media & Publishing, who did an incredible job of representing the IBPA member books and publishers on display by engaging with passersby as I did my best to interest international rights agents during my close to 60 preset appointments. Leann and I were proud to display 229 books for IBPA members who were unable to make the trek to the show. In addition, we were honored to host a number of IBPA’s larger members as part of the association’s collective area at the show. Companies like Sourcebooks, Llewellyn, Lerner, New Harbinger, Independent Publishers Group, Turner Publishing, Sound Wisdom/The Napoleon Hill Foundation and more surrounded IBPA’s cooperative booth, making Row A in Hall 6.0 a beehive of indie publisher activity once again.

After all these years I am surprised to report I experienced a first at this year’s show… the sun was shining the entire time! It was over 80 degrees on a couple of the days. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen the sun in Frankfurt. I was beginning to wonder if the earth was permanently tilted in some strange way. What a treat it was this year to see the sun! And with the nicer weather came loads of beautiful people – friendly, engaging people – people that are likely there every year, but hard to see because they are all bundled up.

Another October… another Frankfurt Book Fair. Sounds so ordinary, right? But, no. I can assure you the Frankfurt Book Fair is anything but ordinary.

About the Frankfurt Book Fair

This is by far the longest running and largest book fair in the world. IBPA has been attending the Frankfurt show for close to 35 years and over that time we have developed incredible relationships with publishers and agents from all over the world. Connecting once a year in Frankfurt is special and these relationships are at the heart of how foreign rights deals often get done.

According to the Frankfurt Book Fair’s Wikipedia page:

"The Frankfurt Book Fair has a tradition spanning more than 500 years. In 1454, soon after Johannes Gutenberg had developed printing in movable letters in Mainz near Frankfurt, the first book fair was held by local booksellers."

This year was relatively flat in terms of attendance compared to 2017.

"A total 285,024 visitors are reported being counted at the 2018 Fair, as compared with 286,425 in 2017, representing a relatively flat level of participation year-over-year, a 0.5-percent decline from last year," Publishing Perspectives reported.

But as Publishers Weekly further reports, “The 2018 Frankfurt Book Fair concluded Sunday, October 14, with Fair officials reporting a 2.7% gain in the number of exhibitors over 2017’s Fair. In all, the Fair featured 7,503 exhibitors from 109 countries (up from 102 last year)… a sign that the Fair has found solid footing again after attendance declines in the recession-challenged years following the 2009 event.”

Attending this show is exhilarating and exhausting all at once. The show is five full days, Wednesday through Sunday from 9AM to 6PM. We often extend conversations with our international colleagues into group dinners and days can easily run anywhere from 12 to 15 hours. From Wednesday to Friday, trade visitors or book professionals from around the globe wheel and deal, looking to strike that sweetheart deal we all live for. And then on the weekend, show organizers open the doors to the public, inviting a whole new energy and audience. Book lovers dress in their favorite costumes and meet their favorite authors. Much of the activity over these final two days takes place in the German halls, but there is also a significant amount of interest being shown by the German public to books written in English.

Around the show this year a lot of focus was paid to politics and related topics. According to Juergen Boos, director of the Fair, as reported by Publishing Perspectives, “In a prepared statement [he] is quoted as saying ‘As the most international event of its kind, Frankfurter Buchmesse is the ideal place to discuss topics affecting the global community… We saw a noticeable increase in the need for political participation; the desire is increasing to represent one’s own position and participate in the public discourse. A number of topics predominated during this year’s activities, including the importance of human rights, along with displacement and migration, populism and civic engagement.”

And this article from Publishers Weekly quotes Macmillan CEO John Sargent, when asked about President Trump’s effort to stop the publication of Fire and Fury, as saying: “I thought initially it was a commercial decision [to continue with the publication], but then realized it was an extremely important decision. Freedom of speech is the very foundation of democracy. There is less and less concern about freedom of speech. Instead, people are more concerned that their point of view be announced as loud as possible. [Publishing Fury] was not a literary function, or a commercial function, but a function to protect the democracy.”

IBPA at the 2018 Frankfurt Book Fair

IBPA supports members' books at the Frankfurt Book Fair in a few different ways. Many IBPA members purchase a single-title display in the IBPA cooperative booth ($185/title). In addition to the onsite, face-out display, those who sign up for single-title display are added to the show catalog which is sent to IBPA's exclusive list of 600+ international contacts. Other members opt for the full-shelf display, which accommodates 4-5 books along with catalogs or sell sheets ($750/shelf, including dedicated company signage).

IBPA cooperative booth on day one of the 2018 Frankfurt Book Fair
IBPA cooperative booth on day two of the 2018 Frankfurt Book Fair
IBPA COO Terry Nathan taking a meeting at the 2018 Frankfurt Book Fair while another attendee scans the shelves of books

During this year’s Fair, I met with close to 60 international rights agents and publishers. Each meeting lasted 15-30 minutes. During these meetings, I got a sense of the buyer's particular area of interest and what’s happening in their local publishing scene.

Interest areas are often quite specific. Sometimes we'll have many titles for the rights agent to consider; other times just a few. In rare cases, of course, we won't have anything at all. But, like everything else in the publishing business, it’s all about building relationships as mentioned above.

Following the Fair, members displaying in IBPA's cooperative booth received a report of all the meetings held and any interest experienced in their particular book(s).

A complete catalog of titles represented in IBPA’s cooperative booth is available online. To take a look at each book displayed, check out the photo album on Facebook.

There's Strength in Numbers

In addition to representing members’ titles in the cooperative booth, we were privileged to be joined on the show floor by those members who chose to purchase a private booth through IBPA. Together, IBPA’s presence secured almost a whole aisle in Hall 6.0!

IBPA COO Terry Nathan (right) with Bill Krause of Llewellyn Worldwide at the 2018 Frankfurt Book Fair

IBPA would like to give special thanks to Stephanie Beard at Turner Publishing; Stephanie Graham and Valerie Pierce at Sourcebooks; Maria Kjoller at Lerner Publishing; Bill Krause at Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.; Dorothy Smyk at New Harbinger Publications; Brooke O’Donnell, Joe Matthews, and Paul Murphy at Independent Publishers Group; Stephen Buda at J. Ross Publishing; Jim Schmelzer at Publishers’ Services International; and Dave Wildasin at The Napoleon Hill Foundation / Sound Wisdom.

By signing up to host their own booth with IBPA, these members received free freight to the Fair and booth support on site. We look forward to hosting them again in 2019.

A side view of Sourcebook's booth at the 2018 Frankfurt Book Fair
A side view of the Independent Publisher Group's booth at the 2018 Frankfurt Book Fair

Fun & Games on the Weekend

As mentioned above, the first three days of the Fair (October 10-12, 2018), publishing and multimedia companies from all over the world were briskly walking from one appointment to another, either negotiating international publishing rights or exchanging information for future dealings. Each booth occupied by at least two individuals sitting across from each other around a small table; catalogs and books sprawled between them. These three days alone welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors – professionals who attend the Fair for the purpose of doing business.

The last two days of the Fair, however, hosted a different crowd. Non-trade visitors — also known as the "public"— were invited to attend the Fair on October 13-14, 2018. And with the nice weather as mentioned above, the public came out in full force! The majority of visitors were German locals looking to buy books in German or discover interesting English-language books. Many German teenagers came as Cosplayers, dressed up as their favorite characters from animated films, comics, books, and manga. For us, Saturday and Sunday felt like a completely different Fair!

A group of cosplayers take a break in the sun outside the 2018 Frankfurt Book Fair


  • Chimamanda Adichie’s powerful opening address – click here.
  • Stability Reigns at Frankfurt – click here.
  • The Big Titles U.S. Agencies Will Be Selling at the 2018 Frankfurt Book Fair - click here.
  • The Audio Boom is Real, Global, and Just Getting Started – click here.
  • Full set of press releases from the Frankfurt Book Fair’s website – click here.

IBPA at the 2019 Frankfurt Book Fair

Next year, the Frankfurt Book Fair will take place October 16-20, 2019. IBPA is happy to announce we will again host a cooperative booth at the Fair (our 34th year in attendance!). We look forward to displaying your book. More information is available here. If you have questions, feel free to e-mail us at or call our office at (310) 546-1818.

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