It is never too early to start thinking about, and eventually planning, your international book fair debut. Experienced publishers will have begun planning for the Frankfurt Book Fair the year before, considering the sales possibilities for all their books and targeting potential buyers.
- Keep at it for a concerted length time and start building your schedule as soon as you can. Three or even four months before the start of the major fairs is advised. Once complete, you can move on to the next task of fair preparation.
- Everyone has their preferred style for creating a meeting schedule. These can be made with paper and pen, using Outlook, or on an Excel document. Find whatever solution works best for you. However compiled, keep it clear to all who may be working on this important task. Detail is everything.
- In offering time slots, make it as easy as possible for the other publisher to decide whether to accept the meeting. In the subject line of your email, indicate clearly the purpose. For example: “London Book Fair 2017 Meeting Request, XXX Publisher.”
- Be polite. Use formal language, using both first and last names until you develop rapport.
- You need to be informative and grab their attention to land that precious meeting, but be succinct. Editors might receive dozens of meeting requests in a day, so don’t waste time with long explanations or pitches. Briefly describe your list and the accolades that will entice and make them believe your list feels right for their market. If possible, including a link to your catalogue: “Here is a link to the spring 2017 catalogue for reference…”
- Large houses are unlikely to give you time on their first day, but they may well be open to seeing new, fresh lists later on day two or three. One idea is to offer the same time slot but on different days to your publishers for your ease. For example: “Meeting at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, March 15th OR 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, March 16th. If neither time is available, please indicate a more convenient time.”
- Mark “to be confirmed” or “tbc” in your schedule until you have confirmation. You might consider using a different style for proposed and confirmed meetings (i.e., regular for proposed, bold for confirmed). Be sure to mark down the name of the person you are meeting, their company, and country on the schedule. Confirmed meetings should stand out.
- Some publishers you contact may use scouts to help schedule their meetings. Scouts are well named. Their job is to keep an eye out for interesting properties and for those new and exciting works that may be the next bestseller. They work incredibly hard for a list of client publishers who pay them for being accessible, reading long into the night at major book fairs and keeping an ear to the ground and editors informed. If a publisher refers their scout to set up a meeting, it may be worth asking the scout if they have any other clients they recommend you meet with. You never know!
Attending a book fair is a proactive endeavour. Scheduling meetings can be gruelling and time-consuming, but as the primary reason for going to the fair, meetings deserve considerable time and focus. Once you have done your research and have a good sense of who you want to meet, dive in!
This blog post is an excerpt from our market guide Attending an International Book Fair: A Guide for First-Time Participants by Catherine Mitchell. Want to read the full report? Download your copy!