If you have never attended the Frankfurt Bookfair or “Messe” in person before, you are in for a real treat!
There are a huge number of stands spread across several large exhibition halls representing many different aspects of the publishing industry. There are publishers (of course) but also distributors, agents, printers, industry bodies, software providers and much more!
One of the best things (we think) is that you can travel the globe in a day, meeting publishers from Asia, the Americas, the Middle East, Europe and Australasia…all without leaving Germany!
It really is a must-attend event for anyone involved in the business of selling rights.
However, such a vast fair can feel a little overwhelming, especially if it’s your first visit (or it’s been a while since your last visit). With that in mind, we have put together some tips to help you make the most of your Frankfurt experience.
6 top recommendations from experienced Frankfurt Bookfair attendees
1 – Plan your journey to the Bookfair
Make sure you have booked flights and accommodation, in plenty of time.
The Bookfair is Frankfurt’s biggest trade fair and accommodation is very much in demand. It is not cheap during this period, so you will need to hunt around to get the best deals, and might need to consider staying a little further out if you have budget restrictions.
Before you leave, plan your route from the accommodation to the fair.
The fair has excellent transport links with S-bahn (suburban trains), U-bahn (underground trains) and tram stops either within or just outside the fair grounds. You can find more info on public transport via the Buchmesse website here). It is easy to walk from the main station to the fair and takes around 10 minutes or so.
Exhibitor passes and trade visitor tickets to the Bookfair are valid as a ticket for the outward and return journey to the exhibition grounds on local public transport in the RMV area. Note that you must have a print out of your ticket PDF for the same day as travel, in order to use it as a ticket – so do that before you leave.
You can use the Frankfurt Transit App to help you plan your route and keep up to date with arrival and departure times etc.
If the weather is kind and your schedule allows, building in a bit of a walk into your journey to or from the fair is a great opportunity to get some welcome fresh air!
Be aware that there are often long queues at the bag check points when entering the fair, so allow plenty of time to get to the halls, especially before your first appointment.
2 – Book and plan your Bookfair appointments carefully…and ASAP!
Most publishing professionals will arrive at Frankfurt with pre-booked appointments. Although it is sometimes possible to arrange the odd meeting whilst at the fair, it is better to pre-book as many meetings as you can, especially with those you really want to see.
Some rights buyers will be fully booked before the summer is out, so get your appointment requests in early.
Think about where you will conduct your meetings. If you have a stand, make sure you have a note of the Hall and stand number that you can supply to the person you are meeting. Do you have your own table or is this shared? If the latter, make sure you know what times are available to you so that you can factor it into your scheduling.
If you don’t have a stand, you can offer to visit the person you are meeting at their stand. However, take care to make sure you plan your meetings so you don’t have to dash between halls too often. If you need to move around lots, then make sure you leave enough of a break between meetings to allow for getting from one to the other!
When booking appointments, it is usual to allow 30 minute slots. Try to schedule in some breaks too. And during breaks, if you can, try to get outside and get a bit of fresh air. It will help you to feel refreshed and more focussed for your next batch of meetings.
3 – Prepare, prepare, prepare
Doing as much planning as you can ahead of the Frankfurt Bookfair, will help you to make the most of your meetings.
Compile and send out a rights guide to all of those you are planning to meet.
A Rights Guide will usually contain a curated list of your new and forthcoming titles, perhaps also including some backlist highlights and will serve as the focus for your meeting.
Many rights buyers like to review these in advance (especially if the rights guide is written in something other than their first language).
Bring some printed copies with you to the fair both for ease of reference during meetings (it can be easier to share printed copies than screens) and for people to take away if they want to.
Make sure you are really familiar with the contents of your rights guide and practise pitching the titles out loud, so that you are really confident when talking about them.
If you have booked in lots of meetings you may have no time between one customer leaving and the next one arriving, so having some pre-prepared notes for each meeting can come in really useful. You can use the information you have from past interactions to consider what titles from your rights guide might be particularly relevant for your customer. For new contacts, or those you haven’t been in touch with for a while, you could check out their website to make sure you have a sense of the sorts of books that they publish and their potential interests. It is also worth checking whether there are any outstanding actions for either party e.g outstanding contracts or payments, and making a note so that you remember to raise them during the meeting.
If you have a stand, liaise with colleagues about what will be there. Make sure any books you want to be displayed will be ordered, and that any physical copies of catalogues or rights guides are sent to the appropriate place.
To help you with your follow-up after the bookfair, make sure you have any sample material you will need to send out ready and waiting to go.
Don’t forget to prepare yourself too. Get plenty of sleep and eat well in the run up to a fair – you will need all the energy you can get!
4 – Pack well with your Bookfair essentials and more
No self-respecting rights professional will rely on having good Wi-fi connections or an ability to charge device, so it is always worthwhile having a paper-based back up for rights guides, schedules and meeting notes.
Even when there are no technological issues, it can sometimes just be more practical to work with paper versions during a fair.
Although business cards are generally used much less, in some cultures the exchanging of business cards during a meeting is an important ritual, so it is worth making sure you bring a small stock of cards with you. Some customers will bring gifts, so it can be nice to have something to offer in return, even if it is only a branded pen!
A selection of stationery is always useful: pens, pencils, post-its, a highlighter and a stapler – these are our ‘must pack’ items. Other items to keep about your person during a bookfair day include:
- a refillable bottle of water
- sore throat sweets
- hand gel
- chargers and power adaptors for all of your devices (just in case you get lucky with power supply).
Now to packing your clothes – dress for comfort. We don’t mean joggers and crocs, you do need to convey some professionalism after all! However, choose clothing that you are comfortable wearing all day (and potentially all evening too).
You might be sat down for large parts of the day if you have a stand, or you may be walking around for large parts of the day, if you don’t.
The halls can get very hot, especially on the busiest days, so it is worth wearing things that you can layer. The weather in Frankfurt in October can be changeable so be prepared for rain when you go outside…just in case!
Finally, we cannot overstate the importance of a comfortable pair of shoes! Frankfurt is not the time to be debuting your latest purchase…well, not unless you’ve spent weeks breaking them in for long periods of time first!
Definitely take more than one pair, alternating shoes each day can help your feet no end!
5 – Don’t get hangry – take snacks
If you know us at all…you will know that the RightsZone team loves their food…especially a good brownie!
Make sure you keep yourself fed and hydrated during the Frankfurt Bookfair. The days are long and can be exhausting. Always have a good breakfast before you start your day. Take a water bottle and make sure you refill it regularly. Pack additional, nutritious snacks that you can grab between meetings, for an additional energy boost, when needed.
Even if you have planned a lunch break in your schedule, the opportunity to get lunch each day is not guaranteed – someone might book in an extra meeting or the queues for food may be too long to allow you to actually queue, buy and eat anything in the time you have available. Plus, you have the other dilemma of choosing to use the toilet in your break…where there can also be long queues…not allowing you enough time to eat as well.
It might be a while before you get out to eat in the evening, especially if you have a drinks events to attend before dinner, so again, take snacks to keep you going!
6 – Have fun at the fair!
By now you might be wondering whether signing yourself up for several meeting-filled days, sore feet and a lack of sustenance is really worth it, but we promise you it absolutely is! And of course, with the right prep you can avoid many of these issues.
If you don’t have a full schedule there are all kinds of talks and events to attend – including the Frankfurt Rights Meeting which takes place on the Tuesday before the fair.
There are lots of opportunities to socialise when the meetings are over with many stands having parties which can be great opportunities for networking, as well as a welcome chance to wind down amongst friends – old and new – before dinners with customers or colleagues at one of Frankfurt’s many restaurants. It is of course equally acceptable to decline an invitation to go out, in favour of an early night to recover for the next day!
It is a busy and frantic time but also a wonderful occasion within the publishing community and a great chance to meet people and to learn.
Come and say hello to the RightsZone team at Frankfurt Bookfair 2023
We hope you find these tips useful and do share them with other team members who are going to Frankfurt for the first time.
RightsZone will be there, so if you do have a spare moment and you spot us…do say hello!
Images credit: © Clare Hodder, RightsZone