On 22 October 2016, FEP participated in a workshop organised by the Frankfurt Book Fair in the framework of the Aldus project to discuss new approaches to the promotion and networking of European book markets. Nina Klein, Associate Partner of the Frankfurt Book Fair, introduced the session illustrating the Aldus project, a European book fair network built on the notion that book fairs are small ecosystems that need to adjust all the time to changes in the trade. European book fairs are engines of innovation in the industry and a place where readers meet; they need to be alert and know the markets, and enjoy a vantage point, a broad view that few players have.
The workshop stimulated the participants to discuss ways to make collective stands at book more interactive, to attract more European authors to appear at book fairs, to use fairs to nurture the inter-European licensing trade and to make European publishers network more effectively through fairs.
For starters, the members of the Aldus network present at the workshop introduced themselves, mentioning their views and expectations about the project. The Portuguese Publishers and Booksellers Association, organizer of the Lisbon Book Fair, is looking into maintaining the positive trend of the Fair and to enhance its international aspects. The Bologna Book Fair, already an important professional platform, also finds it very relevant to engage with players from many countries. The Frankfurt Book Fair is focusing on attracting readers and developing audiences. The Federation of European Publishers will help expanding the network by raising awareness across the publishing community and will work on the promotion of the European Union Prize for Literature at participating book fairs. The Latvian Publisher Association is seeking to further develop the professional programme of one of Riga’s two book fairs and the Lithuanian Publisher Association has the same goal for the Vilnius Book Fair; both associations are aware of the importance of translations for their markets. The Italian Publishers Association coordinates the project and organises the Rome Book Fair for small and medium publishers, also seeking a broader international dimension.
Other organisers of book fairs and interested stakeholders were present in the audience: the Ministry of Culture of Greece, which organises the Thessaloniki International Book Fair, attended by some 20 countries and with a rich cultural programme, expressed its will to cooperate, as did the Municipality of Athens, as the city will be World Book Capital in 2018; the Bulgarian National Book Centre, while not organising the Sofia Book Fair, does host it and is a partner in it, and will be happy to cooperate as well; the Austrian Publishers and Booksellers Association organises the Vienna Book Fair, mostly an event for the public, combined with a festival, and is also interested in joining the network; so is the National Book Center of Malta, organiser of the national book festival; and Librebook, a recently opened European bookshop in Brussels (with books in more than 20 languages) is also looking into possible partnership to promote European literature.
The workshop continued with presentations by the host, the Frankfurt Book Fair, of some best practices, and a reflection on how to project them onto a European dimension.
Bärbel Becker, Director of International Projects at the Frankfurt Book Fair, explained that support for literary exchanges and translations was one of the Fair’s goals, and that this entailed the cooperation of many players. The Fair supports translations actively by asking their Guest of Honour to establish a professional translation grant programme for the export of their literature (some 300 titles were thus translated from Dutch to German this year; in 2008 Turkey created a translation programme). In addition, LitProm, a not-for-profit organisation affiliated with the Fair, has supported the translation so far of 700+ titles from Africa, Asia, Latin America into German, funded with the help of the Fair. The Frankfurt Book Fair’s offices around the world regularly organise events and programmes in support of translations; and the magazine “New Books in German” is published twice a year, helping German books to enter the English market.
Mrs Becker also spoke about the role of the German collective stands at international book fairs as a means to create contacts and promote translations; there are some 15 of them, supported to some extent by relevant Ministries, making it easier for publishers to participate in the fairs abroad. Publishers profit in several ways from the Frankfurt Book Fair’s international network: prior to each collective presentation the Fair contacts professionals in the countries of the fairs, informing them about the stand, the publishers participating, and creating many meeting opportunities; an increase of interest in translations comes from the Guest of Honour schemes. Communication is key: press releases, social media, approaching publishers; fellowships for editors and authors also help. All these activities require concerted efforts, but these usually pay back. The Fair also curates book collections to present at other book fairs and on their website; adding a European bookshelf with the EUPL winners would be an interest option to explore.
Jenny Kühne, responsible for rights and licences at the Frankfurt Book Fair, carried out a reflection on how to make this business more attractive and give it a European dimension. The Fair engages in many projects to foster rights deals for German publishers; examples include: the Frankfurt Rights Meeting, a conference targeted at rights managers and directors, agents, people selling rights, where speakers are invited to present different markets – it’s not a sales pitch, it’s a professional event; cooperation with the film industry, at the Berlinale film festival, where the Fair invites 10 publishers to pitch their books to film producers; and the IPR Licence platform for the online sale of rights and licences, which allows publishers and agents, who at book fairs usually have 30 minutes to pitch their front list titles, to showcase the wealth of their backlist. Somehow, the Fair tries to connect the world, allowing also those who can’t travel to be present; however this is not a way to substitute book fairs, as personal contact remains essential – the Frankfurt Book Fair has an area for literary agents where the big selling happens.
Niki Théron, in charge of the Frankfurt Book Fair professional events and publishers’ training courses abroad, talked about the formats offered by the Fair to foster networking and the mobility of literary works and professionals, a way to promote emerging authors from smaller languages. These include: the Young Translators Programme (currently with France and Switzerland), offering grants for young translators, who travel and live together for the duration of the grants (meetings of former participants are organised through the Fair’s network of book fairs); the Young Booksellers and Publishers Programme (also a French-German initiative, due to its source of funding), which enables young booksellers and publishers from the two countries to travel to seminars and study trips together; and the Fellowship Programme, open to publishers from all countries, with a view to connect talented professionals between them and with the Fair – 16 Fellows are selected per year, and welcomed in Frankfurt to meet with German publishers. All collective stands at book fairs abroad are used to invite all fellows from the region; it’s all about international networks, young publishing professionals, mobility, professional and cultural exchanges.