Flying the flag for Scottish books at Frankfurt Book Fair 2018

From London to Bologna and Beijing to Guadalajara, Book Fairs are a major fixture on the publishing calendar. The largest of all happens every October, when around 300,000 publishers, agents, booksellers and other trade visitors converge on the German city of Frankfurt for a frenetic five days of buying and selling.

Not to be confused with a Book Festival, the Fair is a chance for the trade to do serious business – and it’s a serious expense for publishers to attend. With an eye to keeping costs down, smaller publishers often band together, and Creative Scotland works with Publishing Scotland to support a buzzing collective stand of Scottish publishers and agents.

Frankfurt offers the world in miniature- Mairi Kidd, Creative Scotland

The incredibly busy Canongate Books stand is right next door, adding to a palpable feeling of excitement around Scottish books and writing.

This year our Interim Head of Literature Mairi Kidd attended with Literature Officer Alan Bett. “Frankfurt offers the world in miniature,” Mairi said.

“It’s hard to imagine another place where it would be possible to discuss potential partnerships with Arts Councils and literature promotion agencies from Iceland, New Zealand, Ireland and the Netherlands on the same day, pitch a feature on Scottish writing to a journalist and catch up with colleagues from across Scotland to understand their opportunities and challenges.”

A taste of the islands

Scotland is known across the world for its stunning whisky, and more recently, its brilliant boutique gins. Publishing Scotland exploits this fame to great effect with its Thursday night reception on the stand, a fixture in the Frankfurt calendar.

Hundreds of visitors dropped by to chat books and business over an Isle of Arran Malt or a Harris Gin and Tonic. It was particularly good to see publishers Andrea Morstabili of il Saggiatore, Beatrice Masini of Bompiani, Eva Wallbaum of Harpercollins Germany and Raphaëlle Liebaert of Éditions Stock, all of whom visited Edinburgh on the Publishing Scotland International Fellowship this summer, and to hear about the deals they have done to publish Scottish books in France, Germany and Italy as a result of the programme.

Go, go, go

Ann Crawford and Jenny McIlreavy of National Galleries of Scotland had less than two days at the Fair and packed in over 20 meetings in that time.

They were hugely appreciative of Publishing Scotland who “man the stand when we’re not here and look after us in all sorts of ways.”

A launchpad for new publishers

Sha Nazir of BHP Comics was attending with Gary Chudleigh, author of Plagued, who has just joined BHP to work on TV, games and other media pitches. As a relatively recent start-up, this was the first time for BHP at Frankfurt.

Sha and Gary had a busy fair and were mainly focused on new business development meetings, securing a new North American distributor and identifying a potential partner for online distribution. They had also met with animation and TV producers, and were pleased to have been invited to pitch work to a large European media company – not bad for Gary’s first week!

Laura Jones and Heather McDaid of high-profile start-up 404 Ink were also attending for the first time. They were also looking to the Anglophone export market with meetings with potential partners in Canada, Australia and the USA.

Although they hadn’t been focused on buying rights, they had nonetheless found a book that was a ‘perfect fit’ for their list. Laura and Heather found being on the collective stand invaluable; having a base and the support of the Scottish publishing community really made their first Frankfurt a positive experience.

Exporting Scotland to the world – and buying in the best

Eleanor Collins of award-winning Scottish independent Floris Books was buying and selling at the Fair. The Floris list had been really well received and the visible excitement for the books from publishers from all around the globe had been hugely energising.

Eleanor had spotted a couple of trends in the children’s publishing sector – larger publishers seemed to be specifically looking for smaller companies’ books, and European publishers showing particular interest in middle-grade fiction (books for readers from 7-12 approx).

On the buying front, Eleanor had had an exciting Fair walking through the halls and seeing the huge range of styles; she’d been especially excited by a number of books from Scandinavia and Northern Europe. Floris doesn’t close deals at the Fair so as to allow Eleanor to consult sales and marketing colleagues at home, but the company moves quickly thereafter to ensure they don’t lose out on rights for the books they really want.

Gavin MacDougall of Luath Press – publisher of the recent Orwell Prize winner Poverty Safari – was meeting up with a number of regular contacts, a particularly valuable opportunity this year as one of his key overseas distributors had been taken over by a larger company, opening the potential for greatly increased sales.

Gavin was also looking into new models for audiobook delivery, demonstrating the wide range of opportunities Frankfurt offers for Scottish publishers to go global.

Other Scottish companies attending included Black and White Publishing, Sandstone Press, Muddy Pearl Press, Saraband, Moonlight Publishing and Jenny Brown Associates.

Images (top to bottom): Alan Bett of Creative Scotland and Lucy Feather of Publishing Scotland on the Publishing Scotland stand; Ann Crawford and Jenny MacIlreavy of National Galleries Scotland; Sha Nazir and Gary Chudleigh of BHP Comics; Heather McDaid and Laura Jones of 404 Ink; Eleanor Collins of Floris Books.

This article was published on 15 Oct 2018