What to Expect During Your First Frankfurt Book Fair

By Chrysothemis Armefti – first posted in October 2015.

When I joined 2 Seas Agency earlier this year—my very first experience in foreign rights—I was thrilled.

Exploring the inside of this sector of publishing with Marleen’s constant encouragement has been a fantastic experience. I loved every aspect of foreign rights: from the daily administrative tasks, such as updating the website and uploading new books to the online catalogue, to managing a variety of social media outlets and pitching titles through specific newsletters. Talking with publishers, scouts and agents from all over the world was wonderful. I was also happy to have access to an incredible number of French fiction manuscripts that I could just read at any time I wanted.

Chrysothemis (r) and Marleen (l) at their table at the LitAg

The last couple of months, while arranging Marleen’s European Fall Tour with my colleagues, were hectic. I was surprised and thankful when I got Marleen’s invitation to join her at the Frankfurt Book Fair. The chance to have my own meetings with 2 Seas clients and co-agents sounded wonderful. And yes, I made it to the world’s biggest marketplace for books, rights, media and licenses! I joined 2 Seas Agency’s table at the Literary Agents & Scouts Centre (LitAg) for two days (14-15 October), getting the chance to present our catalog and also the catalogs of our clients that we represent in specific territories.

The first impression of the “Messe” was its immense size. Despite the fact that there were only 6 Halls this year instead of 8, going from Hall 1 to Hall 6, where the LitAg was located, required a short trip by shuttle. Taking the escalators up on the last floor, I noticed the stands of some UK publishers, but obviously we had no time to stop! We had a big day ahead of us, and lots of books to unpack and arrange in our area.

On the first day, I had very few meetings, since I wanted to observe Marleen in action. Pitching titles that I had had the chance to read was easy but presenting other titles, that due to a lack of time I only had the possibility to know by reading the book’s summary, was somewhat more difficult. Thankfully, by the end of the day, and listening to Marleen talking about those books in her many appointments, I got to discover most of the stories. Thus, at the beginning of the second day I started feeling more confident, and I enjoyed my dozens of interesting meetings.

The conversations, in most situations, were in English and in some in French. Also, Marleen held some of them in Dutch. Despite the fact that I do speak French and I have an intermediate level of Portuguese, I found it challenging to pitch titles in these languages in just two minutes. Switching from one language to another during a conversation gets hard sometimes, especially when you  have only prepared the pitch of the book in English. Yet I was also glad to be able to have a conversation with some French and Brazilian editors, in their own language.

Solomou

Presentation of Emilios Solomou’s (c) book, Diary of an Infidelity, in German translation.

Despite the busy schedule, I managed to visit some stands in Hall 5 and 6, more specifically the French stand (BIEF), where I met Guillaume Allary, the owner of Allary Editions which 2 Seas represents worldwide. It was a great surprise stumbling upon Emilios Solomou, (Cyprus winning author of the 2013 EU Prize of Literature) during the presentation of his book, ‘Diary of an Infidelity’, at The Greek Stand. Not to mention, a lovely reunion with an old acquaintance from Stirling University, Marion Sinclair, CEO of Publishing Scotland.

This first Frankfurt Book Fair was an exceptional and very enriching chapter of my life, a place where all my experiences and skills that I developed the last few years seemed to have been put to the fullest use. Back in the daily foreign rights routine at 2 Seas Agency as Junior Agent, I look forward to new challenges and publishing adventures. The book industry is slowly changing and the foreign rights market is expanding, giving the chance to foreign rights professionals to find new homes abroad for original, good-to read manuscripts.

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