Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tips for Getting the Most Out of the Frankfurt Book Fair, by Jason Hand

Greetings from this week's global center of publishing, Frankfurt, Germany. I am here to attend my tenth consecutive Frankfurt International Book Fair (FIBF). As an international rights manager for a sizable global publisher, FIBF is the perfect opportunity for me to meet past, present, and future business partners in person.

And my days at FIBF are usually full of 30-minute (and sometimes 15-minute) back-to-back meetings from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. But I am not here to complain about a grueling schedule, or whine about what it is like to spend so much time in the limelight of promoting my company and its products. I remain grateful for the many opportunities I have had to make long-term relationships and friendships with so many people from around the world.

It is almost a cliché to offer tips and tricks to first-time FIBF attendees. There is a small brochure published every day at FIBF informing everyone of a schedule of special events, as well as industry gossip. And on the first day (Wednesday), that brochure has a small article that typically provides in witty fashion things to do and things NOT to do.

But I will offer here ten of my modest suggestions… some are common sense, and others have been gained by experience:

  • You should be familiar with the website www.frankfurt-bookfair.com. As the official site, you can learn all the basics here.

  • If possible, study in advance a map of the Messe (the fairgrounds where FIBF is held). And get to know how the publishers are distributed at FIBF (for example, English-language publishers are typically located in Hall 8.0).

  • Expect to be walking long distances, so wear comfortable shoes. This is a book fair, not a fashion show. You can navigate the entire fairgrounds in the covered walkways, or you can choose, as I often do, to walk outside (where it is generally cooler and less congested with foot traffic).
  • Should you be fortunate enough to have a FIBF pass that permits you to stay for the duration of the fair, remember that this pass also serves as a free pass to climb aboard all public transportation in the RMV for the duration of the fair. It is often difficult to escape from the Messe via taxi at the end of a long day, but the U-Bahn and S-Bahn trains are convenient and nearby.
  • Try to attend at least one "event," as you never really know what celebrity or semi-celebrity you may encounter. Yes, there will be many German politicians walking about, but you may just run into someone like Dr. Ruth (as I have more than once, with much hilarity, in the past).
  • Expect Saturday at FIBF to be very crowded, as the general public is permitted entrance to the Messe.
  • The Guest of Honor usually has some sort of grand spectacle at least once during the fair. This year's Guest of Honor is China. You should make a note to attend at least one of these events.
  • Underneath the overhead walkway and near the entrance to Hall 5, there is an outdoor flea market that is full of unusual trinkets and gifts. I have seen some interesting items for purchase here, but never bought a thing.
  • Near to the entrance to the U-bahn stop Messe and near the main entrance of the book fair is a used book market. Granted, most of these used books are German-language trade books, so you may not have an interest in such things. And, as it is not in my overall interest and livelihood, I am not supposed to advocate the purchase of used books (especially used textbooks). So maybe this tip is a simple FYI.
  • The Antique Book Fair in Hall 4 is worth a look, if you are interested in old books. There are some for sale (and some simply for display).


And what happens should you make plans to attend the Frankfurt International Book Fair in 2011? Here are some things I suggest to do in advance of next October's fair:

  • I heartily recommend www.inyourpocket.com as a travel website for fairly unbiased, basic information. There is a nice summary about visiting Frankfurt, with some recommendations and reviews for hotels as well as restaurants. You will want to book your hotel room in Frankfurt as early as possible.

  • Make dinner reservations four to six weeks in advance of the book fair, if not earlier. Most restaurants now have websites in both English and German. In most cases you can e-mail a reservation request and receive confirmation via e-mail soon after.

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