Book fairs offer unique opportunities for readers to meet authors, agents find the perfect place to organize business meetings while publishers juggle between presentations, promotions and meetings, taking advantage of all training opportunities that arise. Almost all the European fairs, according to their own specifications, offer programs dedicated to training, debate and update for industry professionals. Aldus, the network of European book fairs, is working to pool the various experiences and traditions and experiment with new formats for the creation of more interactive and engaging events. We asked the organizers of Vilnius, Riga and Bucharest Book Fairs, to provide their views on the training needs of their publishers and the events they are working on.
Vilnius Book Fair
International Vilnius Book Fair awaits specialists and readers every February at the Lithuanian Exhibition and Congress Centre LITEXPO. Since 2000 it has been the biggest Book Fair in the Baltic States. The specialists and cultural program is very broad – more than 400 events each year: seminars for professionals, meetings with authors, book presentations, discussions, readings, concerts, performances, films, awards, contests and events for children, etc.Every year the Vilnius Book Fair attracts more than 300 exhibitors and 67 000 visitors. During 4 cold February days, publishers from more than 10 countries exhibit their books, other printed goods, e- and audio- books in Litexpo. Thursday, or Specialists Day, is always devoted to the specialists and professional events. Librarians can enter fair free and do their research of new content, meet publishers and organize discussions. In the last few years friendly and attractive Library area is organized for the publishers and public to meet Librarian and get involved in numerous activities.
On Thursday publishers devote their time to the relevant topics on recent book publishing development, copyright issues, digital publishing, educational publishing, piracy and etc. Book art specialists, designers and printers get together to celebrate Most Beautiful Books or Art of Book nominations that traditionally starts at noon. A special space or VIP lounge is organized for the individual publishers P2P meetings.
Serious discussions and conversations take place in the Discussion Club. Club adds not only professional and intellectual content to the fair, but political as well. Publishers meet politicians, public figures, economy and inovation specialists on the stage. These events are directly broadcasted by Lithuanian TV channels or recorded. What else makes this book fair famous? The fact, that it is one of the most significant cultural events in Lithuania. International Vilnius Book Fair is exclusively focused on the reader, its main accent is on books, as well as on the possibility for authors to interact with their readers. It has been visited by such stars of the literary and culture world as Alessandro Baricco, John Irving, Andrei Makine, Jostein Gaardner, Joanne Harris, Melvin Burgess, Sofi Oksanen, Yuri Slezkine, Mike Gayle, Etgar Keret, David Foenkinos, Yasmina Khadra, and many others. Art, film and music fans are not left out either. Book fair features exhibitions of famous Lithuanian and foreign artists, illustrators, and photographers, as well as video and sound installations. Visitors also have the opportunity to see screenings of the latest movies made after well-known novels, and documentary films about writers, poets and artists. One of the core events for children at Vilnius book fair is the creative studio Tu gali sukurti knygą (You can create a book). It invites visitors to participate in countless creative workshops, readings, and meetings with children’s literature authors as well as book illustrators from Lithuania and abroad. (Interview to Aida Dobkevičiūtė, Executive Director Lithuanian Publishers Association).
Riga Book Fair
In Riga Book Fair, the professional programm usually consists of several seminars organized by Latvian Publishers Association and by Latvian National Library. They are oriented both to publishing professionals and to people related to reading promotion: librarians, teachers of languages and literature. One of the directions is the comparison of book market in Latvia with book markets in the other Baltic countries and in some other countries where the size of the market is comparable to ours. The other direction is new tools available through library services and professional organizations to provide the information about new and commercially available titles, to help in the book marketing process. One of the topics we have provided several seminars and discussions recently is opportunities for the publishers to promote their books and authors in foreing markets: the role of literary agent, the ļove-hate-triangle” among writers, agents and publishers, the most convernient ways to spread the word about treasures of Latvian literature and pre-requisites for the authors to gain more visibility outside their own contry. Bearing in mind the high proportion of translated titles in the market, we are planning to organize also the event expanding the knowledge about various funds available for translations from other languages. Latvia is one of the countries where the winner of European Prize of Literature is selected this year so one of the events will be also devoted to the Baltic winners and the role the EUPL played in their career. (Interview to Renate Punka, Chair of Latvian Publishers Association )
Bookfest Romania – Connecting publishers in Bookfest book fair
Bookfest Bucharest book fair has seen the industry growing since the early 1990s, when the book fair had a different name – Bookarest, and a different venue – the National Theatre. One can easily say that, even though this is mainly a trade event, everything relevant for the industry has been included in Bookfest book fair, since it is organized directly by the publishers. The book fair started his new life under the name Bookfest in 2006, from an initiative of AER (Association of Romanian Publishers) run back then by the publisher and philosopher Gabriel Liiceanu. The first edition had a generous budget – coming exclusively from private sponsors – and that helped both in terms of promotion but also in terms of drafting the events agenda to include key political speakers and proffesional roundtables. Since then, the organizing committee has tried to make the best in having relevant people in the publishing industry discussing relevant matters for them. The problems of the Romanian book market have been, for years: lack of readers, lack of interest from the educational system to forge reading habits, lack of physical infrastructure – bookshops and libraries. Therefore, the main topics in the proffesional meetings were the above mentioned.
Over the time, Bookfest has had a few foreign guests, most notably then-president of Federation of European Publishers Piotr Marcziszuk, but also translators, literary agents and librarians. In the 2016 edition, Israel being Guest of Honor, Bookfest had the pleasure to welcome Efrat Levi, literary agent from Deborrah Harris Agency in Jerusalem, that had several proffesional meetings with Romanian publishers on developing the translation of Romanian authors to Israel.
For the 2017 edition, Bookfest will feature a presentation of a success story from Swedish publishing and will try to summon relevant people for a hard talk under the ALDUS network regarding the fixed book price. Last year, there has been a debate inside the industry, between book retailers and publishers whether this law would be relevant for the Romanian market, but nothing has yet been settled. (Interview to Mihai Mitrica, Executive Director for the Association of Romanian Publishers and Bookfest book fair ).
This article was originally published in the January 2017 issue of Giornale della Libreria.