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Frankfurt Book Fair 2015: Getting together and getting better

By October 20, 2015No Comments

Report from Peter Dowling Managing Director of Oratia Media ( and publisher of its books division Libro International (, and international councillor of the Publishers Association of New Zealand.

peter dowlingSmaller and better: that’s my feeling after four days at the 2015 Frankfurt Book Fair, the major event on the world publishing calendar.

The Frankfurter Buchmesse organisers condensed the layout of the fair this year, bringing English-language publishers from the distant and cavernous Hall 8 to reside across three levels in Hall 6. With the New Zealand stand well positioned on the ground floor, it was a lot easier to connect for meetings in the other halls and to feel part of this great global village of books.

Compliments again to Anne de Lautour (pictured below with Peter) and the Publishers Association of New Zealand for the very cool and visible design of the collective stand on which Oratia Media took its place alongside 14 other Kiwi publishers – and to our stand staff Christiane Arheilger and Heike Reifgens. There’s a supportive spirit of collegiality and fun all week (rated as the week’s best by many fair regulars). Anne and Peter

Meetings here are conducted at half-hour intervals, which on the busiest days this year meant over 15 official encounters with publishers, agents, distributors and service providers at our stands and theirs – before dinners and gatherings into the night. Along with reviewing current business relationships, presenting new books, seeking rights deals and pitching new series and book ideas, I started communicating our soon-to-be-public rebranding and development plans.

NZ Stand party Michael Duckworth and Scott Beatty

At the New Zealand party: Michael Duckworth (University of Hawaii Press) and Scott Beatty (Trajectory)

Smaller and better also describes how the book industry is looking now. Sure, bookstores have closed, publishers have pulled out of some markets and tightened their lists, and ebooks have generally not delivered on their promise. But a leaner publishing industry has got smarter and is seeing a consumer move back to print, and for independents there’s market share to be grabbed and easier international connections to be made.FF Book fair aerial viw

For our authors, exposure to the international publishing community will hopefully lead to seeing their books overseas and in translation. With our Chinese agent Fanny Yu of CA-Link I toasted the sale of mainland Chinese rights to Dawn McMillan and Ross Kinnaird’s I Need a New Bum!, and I got a good response to their new book Mister Spears and his Hairy Ears. Our new international picture book series Indigenous Voices, which includes a great new story from Tim Tipene, is exciting a lot of interest also. And the September release of Hirini Moko Mead’s classic Te Toi Whakairo: The Art of Maori Carving is also promising good sales offshore.

Peter on Libro stand

With Fanny Yu of our Chinese agency CA-Link

I was also delighted to present some fine NZ books from outside our own programme, including Neil Coleman’s hard-hitting YA novel Roskill, David Bell’s YA fantasy novel The Dog Hunters (first in a very promising series), David Lupton and Leonel Alvarado’s beautiful The Divine Remains, and the sumptuousCoast, Country, Neighbourhood, City, which profiles the work of design studio Isthmus.

Libro stand

Our section of the NZ stand

So much of world publishing is dominated by big US, UK, French and German corporations. Alongside good meetings with colleagues from all those markets, this year Frankfurt brought me great exchanges with publishers from publishers as far flung as Belarus, Chile, El Salvador, Ireland … Big is beautiful but so is small.International publishers sign

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