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Ten things we learned at the Frankfurt Book Fair
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Posted by IPG
We spent an excellent few days in the company of many members in Frankfurt last week. Here are some of our takeaways

1 Footfall was a little down

Fair organisers reported that trade visitor numbers were fractionally down this year, and some of the aisles certainly felt quieter than in previous years. Overall visitor numbers were up though, and traffic through the IPG’s two stands—especially in Hall 4.2 for academic publishers—was steady. You can get an idea of the fair's footfall in this video shot by IPG member Multilingual Matters: a speeded-up walk through every aisle of every hall!

2 Rights trade was brisk

Many of our members told us they were doing good rights and export business throughout the fair. The weakness of sterling has made our prices more appealing for publishers dealing in Euros or dollars, but the brisk trade also shows the continuing popularity of British independent publishers’ content. Anyone wanting to pick up tips for doing even better rights business can join our first ever rights dinner in London on 8 November.

3 Collective stands provide solidarity

As ever, it was great to see the various IPG members on our two stands sharing advice, stories and coffee runs. Exhibiting on collective stands like ours brings a solidarity that isn’t always possible when you visit solo. We were also delighted to sign up several new members over the course of the week.

4 Brexit hasn’t damaged international collaboration

We were pleased to spend time in Frankfurt with our counterparts from independent publishing around the world—including at a party organised by the International Alliance of Independent Publishers, Italy’s ODEI, Alma Books’ Alessandro Gallenzi and others; and at a meeting with IAIP members on our own stand. Collaboration like this won’t be diminished by Brexit. We also enjoyed being alongside our friends from the Australian Publishers Association in Hall 6.2.

5 Publishing is a global game

The international dimension of Frankfurt was obvious in the many parts of the Book Fair beyond the English-language areas. For those of us cocooned in British publishing, a visit to these Halls is a welcome reminder of the wealth of creative publishing around the world.

6 It’s all about the follow-up

Although plenty of good deals were being done at Frankfurt, most publishers will judge the success or otherwise of the Fair on the business they follow up afterwards. As several members pointed out, the biggest benefits of a Frankfurt trip are often felt in the sales or projects that are sealed in the weeks, months or even years afterwards.

7 Our dinner dates were very popular

One of the nice things about the Frankfurt Book Fair is that, with no trains home to catch at the end of the night, our members can spend more time with one another. Our two dinners, one for our Academic and Professional Special Interest Group on the Wednesday night and another for all members on Friday, were both well-attended and convivial affairs.

8 The sun does shine in Frankfurt

After several years of gloom and rain in Frankfurt, large chunks of this year’s Fair were blessed with blue skies and temperatures warm enough to sit outside at lunchtime. It gave a noticeable lift to people’s spirits.

9 Ice cream inflation is rampant

Ice cream stands sustain several members of the IPG team through the afternoons at the Book Fair. Two years ago a couple of scoops would have set you back three Euros—perhaps £2.20 at the exchange rates of the time. In 2017, with the price hiked to 3.50 Euros and the pound taking a hammering, they worked out at around £3.30—50% more. That’s one Brexit effect we can all sympathise with.

10 Fair-goers always love a party

There were plenty of excellent parties at the Fair, and we modestly suggest that ours, supported by MetaComet Systems on the Thursday night, was one of the liveliest. With luminaries of publishing including Richard Fisher, Sonny Leong and Alison Jones serving the drinks, it was also one of the best staffed.

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