Crashing Frankfurt Buchmesse Party
As an author, the chances are, if you approach an industry professional out of the blue at a trade fair, they will say, ‘What are you doing here, and no, I don’t accept submissions / I’m not looking for any new clients.’ One I approached at the Frankfurt Buchmesse told me this three times, though I knew the state of play before I ventured to locate their particular stall, deep in the bowels of hall 6. It pays to do research, and I had already gleaned the information that the soonest they might accept submissions would be 2018. Expect brusqueness, and don’t take it personally.
I don’t blame the professionals. Each publisher handles literally thousands of queries each year, from aspiring authors all hoping to gain recognition for their hard work. But authors are the life-blood of all publishing efforts and – unless publishers are saying they can write as well as they publish – will be needed to feed the industry for as long as the industry aspires to exist.
The mainstream is looking for one thing, or maybe several things which all add up to one thing: success, big bucks and the next phenomenon in authorship. The next Booker Prize winner. But authors get the short straw at such events as these, relegated, for the most part either to public nuisance, or at best, to milking cow or strong ox that will make us lots of money. Strangely, this does not depress or annoy me. On the contrary, I came away from Germany inspired and totally determined to write, to hope for the best, and, having seen how it works on the ground, to keep writing and roll with the punches. When shit happens, roll with it, not in it.
From the evidence I could glean, self-publishing remains a minute fraction of the publishing effort in Germany, occupying a mere two small desks on one level on one floor of the Buchmesse. Compared to Britain and America, the inroads of KPD and CreateSpace to the German mainstream are negligible. Whereas at the London Book Fair there were events and whole sections of floor devoted to self-publishing, to authors, to Kindle and to hybrid publishing options, in Germany, that particular option appears just to be waking up.
If the organisers would like to know how to expand their fields of interest and attract more visitors, they can learn from the London Book Fair, which offered extensive and interesting author participation events, brainstorming and a creative look at going it alone. If the mainstream finds that uncomfortable, they might at least invite wider participation from authors, who so often find themselves uncomfortably stuck between stools: not an industry insider, nor a member of the public welcomed at the weekend opening.