For one thing, Lisa and I discovered that e-books, a given for publishers here in the States, are not a priority for European publishers. You can find popular titles in audiobook form, and indeed, there are some books available in digital format. But by and large, it’s not the norm that Europeans consider each print release for e-book status, as opposed to U.S. publishers, where each new print publication is often automatically available in digital format. Asian publishers are more apt to produce books in both print and digital format, but there, too, it is limited mostly to China and Japan, where digital readers are more prevalent than in even a relatively tech-savvy country like India.
Frankfurt is about selling rights, and we met with over 60 foreign publishers who were interested in publishing one or more of our books. For many overseas publishers, especially in Eastern Europe and Asia, it’s easier to license rights to a book and translate the content than to find authors and develop a book from scratch. With over 300 current and backlist titles available to offer for rights, the St. Anthony Messenger Press stand is a popular place to stop for many overseas religious publishers.
Another valuable aspect of the book fair is the opportunity to interact with our U.S. colleagues in religious publishing who are also present at the fair. This year, as in years past, we shared a stand with Abbey Press, represented by Linus Mundy, who recently retired as director of publications. He and his wife, Michaeline, who wrote many of the popular Elf-help kids’ books, were good partners as we negotiated the many people who were in and out of the stand during the course of our five, 10-hour days on the floor of the fair.
Another chance to visit with our U.S. colleagues came on Saturday evening, when many of us shared dinner at the Maeson Castellano in Frankfurt. This being the end of day five, we were all ready to relax, enjoy a good meal (excellent Spanish fare, including a top-notch paella), celebrate our successes, and enjoy each other’s company. It was a time to make new friends and renew old acquaintances. Mercifully, we were all able to negotiate the well-run and very efficient German transit system to make it back to our respective hotels at a reasonable hour!
It’s been almost two weeks since we returned from Frankfurt, and I’m still getting over the jet lag plus fatigue from the intense work schedule. No matter; it was time well spent in promoting our books to foreign publishers, learning about what others in mainstream and niche publishing are doing, connecting with colleagues, and taking advantage of the German ambience.
Most of all, the Frankfurt Book Fair is an affirmation that printed books are indeed viable for years to come.
P.S. On the day we arrived in Frankfurt, I took a train from our hotel in Bad Soden to Mainz, to visit the Gutenberg Museum. There I snapped this picture of a folio from a Gutenberg Bible—before I found out that cameras were verboten in the museum.