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Reflecting on Frankfurt Book Fair

Tom Chalmers

Tom Chalmers is Managing Director at IPR License.

There are many words that spring to mind when reflecting on an event like the Frankfurt Book Fair. So in no particular order here we go. Exhausting, inspiring, demanding, meetings, contacts, rewarding, initiatives, partnerships, innovations, coffee, business. There are countless more – and I’m sure you get the gist – but mood certainly wasn’t one of them.

At the beginning of the event I tweeted ‘Why are people obsessed with ‘mood’ at book fairs’, in response to a story on Publishers Weekly – Frankfurt 2013: CONTEC Opens ‘Good Mood’ Frankfurt Book Fair.

I have to be honest and say that on the first morning of such an important event in the publishing calendar ‘mood’ was at the very back of my thoughts. As great as it is to see cheery people at trade events, what floats my boat more are facts, figures and doing business. Then again maybe that’s just me or maybe there are still some in the publishing industry who would rather be in a good mood than get down to the nitty-gritty of getting deals done.

Of course many deals were completed, partnerships undertaken, apps launched, markets heralded and rights acquired. After all Frankfurt legend is full of tales of editors staying up all night to read hot manuscripts and huge deals being done on the spot. And despite the reported 2% fall in visitor numbers, the Frankfurt Book Fair – and book fairs in general – remains an essential meeting place for the industry and important platform for a raft of rights and licensing deals.

Many book fairs occur throughout the year, some quite specialist, others more general, but all with the same ultimate purpose: to sell rights in books as widely as possible. Having said that they are not always easy places for authors as they can often be somewhat daunting and frustrating arenas, having so many influential people under one (well several) roofs but with few real opportunities to really capture their attention.

With this in mind, at Frankfurt we piloted our inaugural IPR License Rights Catalogue to help members get their work in front of the industry’s leading movers and shakers.

The feedback and sheer volume of interest generated before and after the fair, amongst authors, publishers and rights professionals has led to us quickly cement the roll out of this concept across a number of trade shows throughout 2014. It has really illustrated the appetite amongst authors to maximise the rights to their works in territories beyond their own and how willing they are to utilise a range of different avenues and mediums to reach them.

In an age of fast and cheap communications, the reality is that the majority of deals are now done away from fairs and our members do appreciate this. But let’s just underline that fairs do still represent a vital exchange of ideas and remain a great place to highlight work to a captive and influential international audience. And long may they continue, however tiring they may be.

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