After the Fair

Recently, we’ve been exploring the ins and outs of attending international book fairs with excerpts from our market guide Attending an International Book Fair: A Guide for First-Time participants by Catherine Mitchell. Today, we provide some final advice on how to make the most of your new connections after a book fair.


Once you recover from the fair and the jet lag, so begins the important work of follow- up. Without this, the chances for sales diminish rapidly. It is best to complete your follow-up as quickly as possible after the fair. If you are up to it, use the flight home to go through your meeting notes. Determine which meetings seemed to have the best chance of success and the most interest, and tackle those first upon arrival at the office.

It is crucial to record any interest in a regimented system or database used in-house. Any colleagues who hold an active responsibility or oversight in rights should be able to access and analyze this information easily. Interest gathered at book fairs is publishing gold: have this system in place ahead of your departure and be sure that all interest is noted and dealt with in a timely and equitable fashion. If you have multiple expressions of interest from a territory or market for a book, you must respond and send out material to each publisher at the same time to be fair and correct.

Should you be so lucky as to have multiple offers of interest for a book within a certain territory, you truly have passed the test! Running an auction can be stressful but stimulating. Consider calling a trusted publishing colleague for advice on how best to handle such good fortune.

Sending Materials

If you are able, send messages to the office during the fair so packages with finished books requested by publishers in your meeting go out in real time, or have emails with pdfs sent while you’re still away. Time is of the essence. Often, it’s the publishers who get their materials out quickly who benefit from a decision on the other side of the world. Showing the same consideration to editorial and production schedules as you would require is both expected and appreciated. Putting unreasonable pressure for decisions or presenting impossible deadlines to join gang printings will not find favour.

Check your notes for anything else you promised to send or that might meet with approval from your foreign contact to help ensure a sale. As updates on reviews and awards come to you, share them with those who have the work under consideration. They want to be part of a winning title, so keep everyone informed and be prepared to manage the buzz of a hot book just as you would domestically. You may well reap huge rewards.

The most successful rights people have a keen eye for detail and are well organized. This means recording material sent out, checking on receipt at the other end, maintaining production schedules within the house and beyond, liaising with production colleagues for print costs, keeping tabs on multiple interest from publishers from the same market, doing follow-ups on material, informing publishers of funding for translation and author travel (if possible), sending out contracts, and ensuring receipt of advances and foreign editions. This list is not complete, but it outlines the major parts in keeping your rights work well managed and effective. No one wants to find they have sold rights for the same book to two publishers. Rights contracts are binding and require the same attention to detail as your head contract.

Selling rights well is not for the faint of heart. Many refer to book fairs as a marathon. As you will likely conclude after your own first fair, this reference is an apt description. Rights sales happen every day, and with gusto. Finding sales with your books is possible (and fun!), but be prepared for the long haul.

Building Relationships

Your expectations for success from the fair should be reasonable. Not every book or meeting will result in a sale, despite your best efforts and the quality of the work. Having attended your first fair, you will have witnessed the vast array of books published around the world. Choice is not the problem—selling and pitching your books to the right publisher can take time. They want to find exciting frontlist titles that will bring in revenue, buzz, and prestige and will continue to sell year after year.

Enjoy the time with foreign publishers and new contacts. If you stick with selling rights and attend future fairs, they will most certainly become familiar faces and welcome colleagues. Whatever your style and preference for maintaining good relations, continue to dedicate time to sustain these contacts. Some publishers take small gifts. Others simply connect on a regular basis throughout the year. Keep publishers apprised of the achievements of the house and your authors. Invite your contacts to Canadian networking receptions or out for dinner. Much of the success at book fairs happens through informal contact at social gatherings. You don’t have to devote all your evenings to parties and receptions, but having an interest in knowing more about the other generally leads to good rapport.

Sales will come based on the strength of the work, aided by the reputation and means of the foreign house and any additional marketing they may afford. For the most part, the author will likely never set foot in the country where the sale has occurred unless there is a major book award in the offing or a runaway bestseller.

Seeing copies of foreign editions arrive at your office is enjoyable, as it affirms that both your book and your taste have legs. Receiving a nice advance and potential future royalties is even better. If you nurture the bond throughout the year and maintain the relationship going forward, selling rights can be both satisfying and profitable for everyone concerned.

Don’t forget those left behind. While you were wining and dining in a glamorous city, your colleagues were holding the fort, perhaps responding at odd hours to ensure you had everything you needed for this initial venture on the world stage. Bringing home chocolates or other delights is not merely an act of kindness, it also provides enjoyment as you take time to talk about your first fair. They want to know how it went, which books got the most attention, what comments you received on your list. Share the moment.

10/12/2017 | Book Fairs