Friday, October 25, 2013

The Frankfurt Book Fair, Part Two

My first Frankfurt Book Fair post was about the business side of the fair. That’s only half the story! The social aspect of the fair—networking at drinks, dinners, parties, and hotel bars—is just as important.

One of those hotels, the Frankfurter Hof, has been the unofficial social hub of the book fair for years. Some publishing people actually stay at the Hof, but regardless of where you hang your hat, you’ll end up there at some point. People make business appointments at the Frankfurter Hof, do lunch, and drink in the lobby or linger outside until 4:00 in the morning. I'm not cool enough to stay out quite that late, but some scouts and foreign editors even have to show their bosses a receipt for drinks to prove that they were there until a certain time, partying networking the night away. 

On Tuesday, before the fair has formally begun, some people take meetings at the Hof. It’s crazed and crowded, and you never know who you’ll bump into while trying to find your next meeting. It’s often the first time you'll see someone you haven’t seen since, well, last Frankfurt. Reunions abound! This year we arrived at 9 a.m. to snag a coveted table on the terrace just outside the hotel. Just like at the fair itself, we had meetings every thirty minutes, but in a much nicer setting, and with wine (we waited ‘til 3:00, okay?). The editors we met with were happy to have a glass, and I swear our meetings were 99% more entertaining and productive after that.

What you do after those meetings can be just as key as what happens during them. Frankfurt is one of the few times when we’re able to meet with our co-agents in person, though we’re in communication with them every day. (Quick co-agent primer: we partner with literary agents on the ground in every territory. They get 10% of every foreign deal. They rock.) There are only a handful of really great co-agents in every territory, and tons of US agents. When we have a longstanding, productive, and exclusive relationship with a killer co-agent, we want to show them how much we love and appreciate them. Agents often take their co-agents out to dinner and/or drinks to say thanks. (The pic to the left is a popular outdoor drinks spot.) It’s good for our relationships--and our business--to get to know each other offline.

We also want to get in some social time with the editors who publish our clients’ books abroad, and the scouts with whom they work. We see them at various publisher-hosted parties, and again, sometimes at drinks or a dinner. A typical day in Frankfurt can involve meetings from 9-6, then probably a drinks meeting, then a dinner function, then some kind of shindig until the wee hours. If you don’t have anything else to do, you might end up at the Frankfurter Hof (again!) just to see who’s around. There's some hot gossip, bookish and otherwise. Though you’re not always talking business, you’re always on the job – and always on, so for super-introverted book people, it can be an intense week of late nights and early mornings. So, when your agent comes home from Frankfurt, don't assume he or she has been taking anything resembling a vacation for the last week. They probably feel like a beer-soaked, exhausted lump of potatoes and schnitzel, and are only capable of speaking in pitches. 

This is getting a bit long for one post, but next time, I’ll address some trends we’re seeing in international rights. Questions? Comments? Let me know!


  1. I'm always surprised (in a good way) by the intricate network of a literary agency. This is to say that, I sometimes don't realize just how much your work exceeds the US in establishing foreign rights and making connections with co-agents. And, it's also neat everyone had such a fun time!

    Take care,

  2. Cool stuff. And what a great writer you are, Molly!