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News & Press: Trade Show News

IBPA Report from the 2019 Frankfurt Book Fair

Monday, November 18, 2019   (1 Comments)
Posted by: Terry Nathan, IBPA COO
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They Say the Show is Shrinking…You Could Have Fooled Me

By Terry Nathan, IBPA Chief Operations Officer –

IBPA staff and volunteers are ready to welcome visitors to IBPA’s booth at the 2019 Frankfurt International Book Fair. Left to right are Stephanie Beard of Turner Publishing, Terry Nathan, IBPA COO, Katie Miller of BiggerPockets Publishing, and Stephen Buda of J. Ross Publishing.

(Manhattan Beach, CA - November 18, 2019) -- Every October, hundreds of thousands of book lovers descend upon the fairgrounds in Frankfurt, Germany for the Frankfurt Book Fair. That’s right, I said hundreds of thousands – not thousands, not tens of thousands…hundreds of thousands.

According to the show organizers, more than 302,000 people attended this year’s show (that is an increase of about 5% over last year, by the way). Granted, this includes the public that attend on the weekend, but that is still a lot of people! And according to the show organizers, 47% (or 142,000) of these people are trade visitors. To put this in perspective, the largest industry shows here in the U.S. are the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference and BookExpo/BookCon. ALA had a total of 25,000 visitors in 2019 and BookExpo/BookCon (two shows, one for the trade and one for the public) has 27,000 combined. ALA had 800 exhibitors and BookExpo/BookCon had 475. There were close to 7,500 exhibitors at the 2019 Frankfurt Book Fair.

The Frankfurt Book Fair is a five-day book fair that takes up six or seven buildings within what’s called “the fairgrounds,” a space large enough to house a small city. When I first started attending the fair in the early 90’s it was even larger, up to 12 buildings if I remember correctly. Because of this some may say the show is shrinking, and yes it probably is ... like everything else. But I say it’s still a very large show!

IBPA attends the Frankfurt Book Fair each year to help generate international interest in our members’ books. This typically means selling foreign rights for translation into a different language, but it can also mean reprint rights or international distribution rights for English versions of the books. Just about every country in the world is represented at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Dominque Raccah, publisher and founder of Sourcebooks, was excited to celebrate her 25th year at the fair. She has been part of the IBPA area since her first show in 1995.

One way IBPA generates interest is by staffing a cooperative booth filled with IBPA member titles. Not every book in IBPA’s cooperative booth receives direct interest during the show, but all the books receive great exposure, both through the face-out display in our cooperative booth and by being part of IBPA’s show catalog, which is emailed to IBPA’s full list of 550 international rights contacts from around the world as well as given in person to the 50-75 foreign rights agents we meet with at the show. In addition, plenty of people walk through IBPA’s booth over the five days of the show to just browse the books at their leisure.

This year, I was joined in IBPA’s cooperative booth for the second time by IBPA member Katie Miller of BiggerPockets Publishing. Katie did an amazing job representing the books and publishers on display. We were proud to display 193 of our members’ books in the cooperative booth (for those unable to make the trek to the show). And we were honored to host a number of our larger members as part of IBPA’s collective area at the show. Companies like Sourcebooks, Llewellyn, Lerner, New Harbinger, Independent Publishers Group, Turner Publishing, and more surrounded IBPA’s collective booth, making row A in hall 6.0 THE place to be for indie publishing.

In addition to helping the IBPA members at the show, Katie also represented her own company, BiggerPockets Publishing. This year I was especially happy to see her meeting again with Korean agents she met two years ago when she first attended the show. They stopped by the IBPA booth to show her copies of BiggerPockets Publishing’s books which had been published in Korean. So exciting to see!

Katie Miller of BiggerPockets Pulishing proudly displays a few of her books that were recently published in Korea.

About the Show

The Frankfurt Book Fair is by far the longest running and largest book fair in the world. IBPA has been attending the show since the 1980s and over that time we have developed incredible relationships with publishers and agents from all over the world. Connecting once a year in Frankfurt, Germany is special, and these relationships are at the heart of how foreign rights deals often get done. Working the Frankfurt Book Fair is a process. To approach it as a one-off event would be a mistake. The relationships take work and time, but they will pay off in the end.

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."

As mentioned above, overall attendance was up this year. According to Publishers Weekly:

"In a release, organizers reported 302,267 total visitors, a 5.5% jump from the 285,024 who attended in 2018, including a 1.8% increase in professional attendance, and a 9.2% jump in weekend attendance. The number of exhibitors was down slightly to 7,450 from 7,503 in 2018."

Visitors browse the books in the IBPA booth (photo left), while a couple of meetings take place in the IBPA booth.

Attending the Frankfurt Book Fair

Frankfurt is no longer just a book fair; it is now a content fair. I guess when I think about it, though, it always has been. Guests and visitor attractions vary from astronauts to YouTubers. There are even folks there looking for content for reality shows. [On my list of international rights agents is a person from Freemantle Media, a company from the UK that produces shows like Idol, Got Talent, X-Factor, etc.] Netflix is a player at the fair and the Netflix International Originals chief was a highlight at this year’s show. You can read more about it here.

Terry Nathan, IBPA’s COO, works hard to place some of IBPA’s members’ books with some publishers from Spain.

Audio was a big topic at this year’s fair once again, with the show hosting panels on the subject and making Frankfurt Audio a "thing." You can read more about that here.

I was especially excited to see the show adapting to and embracing authors. This year they opened an Authors Area for the first time – called Frankfurt Authors. It replaced the self-publishing area). Not unlike here in the U.S. (and here at IBPA), this part of the market is critical - and huge! We’re working very hard to serve this part of the industry and I was pleased to see the show embracing it, as well. Read more about it here.

Authors have always been a vital part of the publishing landscape, but it used to be for their celebrity status – of course in addition to their creativity. Now authors are being engrained (and relied upon) in the publishing process at a much more involved level.

IBPA at the 2019 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 550+ 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).

During this year’s Fair, I met with close to 50 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, and repetitive exposure to the marketplace. Following the Fair, members displaying in IBPA's cooperative booth received a report of all of meetings held and any interest expressed 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.

IBPA would like to give special thanks to Stephanie Beard at Turner Publishing, Dominique Raccah, Valerie Pierce and all our friends at Sourcebooks; Maria Kjoller at Lerner Publishing; Bill Krause at Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.; Dorothy and Tim Smyk at New Harbinger Publications; Brooke O’Donnell, Joe Matthews, Janet Potter 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.

The Llewellyn booth is always alive with activity. Above their representatives show international publishers and agents their new titles and strong backlist titles.

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 2020.

Over the Weekend

Over the weekend, non-trade visitors came out in large numbers to meet their favorite authors, get deals on books, or just have a good time. Most of the 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! Despite this, we still had a few very productive meetings on Saturday and Sunday, and we also met a lot of interesting people.

Have a look at some of the fun and games happening over the weekend:

The middle of the fairgrounds is alive with activity, especially on the weekend. Behind the crowd is Hall 3 where most of the German publishers display.
Some of the local book lovers enjoying their weekend at the 2019 Frankfurt Book Fair.


IBPA at the 2020 Frankfurt Book Fair

Next year, the Frankfurt Book Fair will take place October 14-18, 2020. IBPA is happy to announce we will again host a cooperative booth at the Fair (our 35th 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.


Thomas Keech, Real Nice Books LLC says...
Posted Tuesday, November 19, 2019
A great report. It sounds like an interesting event.

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