Thérèse Coen is Rights Director at Hardman & Swainson, and has worked in Translation Rights, both in Publishing and Agencies. She currently divides her time between reading books for Frankfurt, preparing meetings for Frankfurt, sending out books pre-Frankfurt, talking to other rights people about Frankfurt and dreaming about Frankfurt being over. So here are her top tips for success at Frankfurt.
Organise, don’t agonise
I’ll start with the boring bit. However much I think I can just “wing” it every year, I wouldn’t actually have a very successful fair if I didn’t rock up with my rights guides, business cards, meeting notes and (several copies of) my schedule. It takes a bit of effort, but it’s worth being super organised, as you don’t want the extra stress of having the wrong people turn up at your table at the wrong time (it’ll still happen, but less), realising that a book is missing from your typo-riddled guide, or that you forgot your meeting notes. It doesn’t cost much to arrive prepared and professional, and it will only make you look good.
Get your pitches down and be prepared to answer weird and wonderful questions
Editors will ask you about the beginning of a book, the ending of it, and many oddly specific questions about the middle. You can always play the “I don’t want to spoil it, you should read it for yourself” card, but you can’t really use that more than once in a meeting, so try to read as many of your books as possible, or at least grill the agent on their pitch, so you’ve got some good answers (some embellishment never hurt anyone) for those on-the-ball foreign editors.
Be prepared to talk, a lot
Everyone loses their voices at the fair. Be it from the endless pitching or from the 3am karaoke sessions, we all end up hoarse and croaky by the Friday, so keep hydrated, let the editors talk about their own lists to let your voice recover, then keep killing those pitches!
We are there to sell books, so you’re not going to tell a publisher if you hate one or several books on your list, I get it. But the whole point of meeting editors is to forge long-term relationships, so you want them to trust you that the books you are presenting them are books you genuinely think could fit on their list, or that they might personally like. So, if they ask you about your favourite (or least favourite) book is on your list, tell them, diplomatically, what you really think. They will appreciate your honesty and trust your opinion more in the future.
It’s Frankfurt, it’s a bookfair. Stodge + alcohol. Wear increasingly loose fitting clothing as the week progresses, and maybe don’t throw yourself at the baskets of bread at dinner every evening or the negronis at the bar at the end of the night (safe to say, I won’t be adhering to that rule), because you’ll just feel even worse the next morning. Or just get really good at dealing with hangovers.
Stamina – stock up on sleep
Long days and long nights, the fair really tests your stamina. And the week leading up and following on from it are also the busiest office week of the year so stock up on sleep like a squirrel stocking up on nuts. Snatch minutes of sleep on the tube, on the bus, on the bike… even if you end up in Barnet or in the gutter as a result.
Bring some or all of the following for as pain-free a fair as possible – mentally and physically: plasters, spare flats if you intend to wear heels (I’m going to adhere to the publishing stereotype here and assume most rights people reading this are women), a phone charger or battery pack (your iphone will run out of juice), mints, hand sanitiser, pen, notebook, business cards and scarf/umbrella. Frankfurt bookfair heralds the beginning of autumn, which means I can guarantee that it will be miserably wet.