Sara Cohen, Rights and Contracts Manager at Temple University Press, describes her experiences at the recent Frankfurt Book Fair
One of the highlights of my job is that I get to attend the Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s largest trade fair for books, every year in October. The word “Fair” makes the event seem quaint, but the fairgrounds are a small city within the city, made up of several large exhibition halls (a bus transports people among them) that house more than 7,000 exhibitors from over 100 countries. The Fair has been taking place for over 500 years—since shortly after Johannes Guttenberg’s printing press allowed for the mass production of books. It provides a forum for publishers, agents, and people selling book-related goods and services to come together and exchange ideas. I was there to sell translation and distribution rights for Temple University Press books to foreign publishers.
This was my first time attending the Frankfurt Book Fair. Attending the world’s largest trade fair for books, I knew I would be overwhelmed, but as soon as I walked into the exhibition hall I was fine. Surrounded by books and book people, I really felt like I was in my element and was ready to sell some foreign rights. I was based in a booth with representatives from several other university presses. I had meetings with foreign rights agents and publishers from countries including Brazil, India, Korea, China, Japan, Turkey, Spain, Vietnam, Thailand, and Singapore. I don’t think that I’ve met people from that many countries over the course of my entire life, so it was a pretty interesting experience. The books of ours that drew the most attention from agents and publishers were Art, Politics, and Development by Philipp Lepenies, How We Die Now by Karla Erickson, and Ethnographies of Youth and Temporality, edited by Anne Line Dalsgård, Martin Demant Frederiksen, Susanne Højlund and Lotte Meinert. If you want to be a truly cosmopolitan person, you should buy and read all three.
As for the city itself, I’ve heard others compare Frankfurt to Charlotte, North Carolina and Dallas, Texas—I’ve never been to either of those cities, but I think that what these people meant is that both are cities with tall building and not a lot of personality. I found Frankfurt to be charming though. I rented an apartment on the top floor of a very old building with six, winding flights of stairs in a neighborhood called Sachsenhausen. The neighborhood had a ton of restaurants and shops and several places to drink Apfelwein (apple wine), a regional drink made from fermented apples. As an almost vegetarian, I was worried about the cuisine, but was pleased to discover that in addition to the Frankfurter, another regional specialty is a dish called Grüne Soße (green sauce), which is boiled eggs and potatoes in an herbed (thus green) yogurt sauce. The people I met were lovely, and I got to pet a couple of very well-behaved dogs (dogs were allowed in bars and on the subway, which surprised and delighted me).
All told, I had a great experience and look forward to next year’s Frankfurt Book Fair.