Frankfurt Book Fair occupies an almost mythic status in author’s minds, a magic place where books are pitched, bought and sold in far flung territories, where publishers and agents all gather in the same room (well, conference centre! or more likely, bar!), and where authors are discussed and books hyped to the extreme. I’ve been lucky enough to have been invited to FBF twice with HarperCollins and although my editor hat was firmly placed on my head throughout, I’ve had quite a few authors ask what the legendary FBF is like. Although it’s very much a trade fair (and really not fun for authors unless you’re doing a specific event or meeting a specific person), I’ve compiled a few top tips for surviving two days at the largest books and media fair in the world…
1) Wear comfortable shoes
Yes, FBF is a chance to break out my best business attire for the friends and foreign publishers I only get to see twice a year, but comfort over style is key at Frankfurt – especially if you’re constantly running between exhibition halls, as I was! No sky-high stilettos for me (not even medium-high)… flats or sensibly-heeled shoes all the way. Seriously, Frankfurt Book Fair is the size of 42 American football fields, so I even considered running shoes (but drew the line ).
2) Look out for your friend’s books
In between meetings (or jogging between halls), take a look out for books by your friends! I can tell you, it’s better than coffee for giving you an adrenaline boost. For example, spotting Laure Eve’s book in huge poster-format as I entered was so exciting! And lots of Luckies books were cycling through the electronic display on the Harper stand, including Pretty Girl 13 by Liz Coley.
3) Check out the other halls
It’s pretty easy as an editor to just see the Agent’s Centre and the main UK/US publishers hall. But I’m glad I did a little tour of the rest of the fair… Otherwise I would have missed out on the wall of George R. R. Martin in the German hall, and the giant Hobbit book! It’s also amazing to see just how many publishers there are out there around the world, and to feel like you’re drowning in books – a wonderful (if a little terrifying) experience for an editor and writer.
4) Get local recommendations
Agent extraordinaire Juliet and I went for dinner at this amazing local Italian restaurant, where we got the ‘best table’ in the house despite no reservation (okay, it was the table underneath the bar!) and had about ten different waiters all of whom tried to recommend us different dishes and almost refused to let Juliet order her spaghetti bolognese (hint to Italian/German waiters: you can’t force recommendations on people with food allergies!)
5) Better yet, meet up with a local…
Meeting up with Lenore Appelhans (fellow Lucky 13 and author of Level 2) and her husband, Daniel, was the absolute highlight of my Frankfurt trip. We went to a cool little Persian all-you-can-eat buffet (how did they know that Persian food is my absolute favourite kind of food?) where they operate under a ‘pay what you think it’s worth’ philosophy. A unique little social experiment, and delicious grub at the same time. And it was nice to see a bit of Frankfurt beyond the convention centre (plus, Daniel enticed me to buy delicious German baked goods… drool.)
And on an end note, it was great to see The Explorer by James Smythe featured on the HC stand – a truly brilliant near-future SF you’ll be hearing lots about soon. He’s right up there with Justin Bieber, as you can see from this pic!