The Top 3 Questions at Book Fairs & Why They’re a Waste of Your Time
The Combined Book Team October 21, 2015

The CBE team has just returned from The Frankfurt Book Fair and it was a fantastic experience. There were many inquiries about the books in our display, meetings going on throughout and of course large amounts of traffic. While at the USA Pavilion reception area there were a few questions that turned out to be frequently asked, and it became clear that some authors had some misconceptions about what they should be doing at a fair like Frankfurt. Like anything when it comes to publishing, research is key. Before you spend money on tickets to a fair, take time off to travel, or get your hopes up, it’s important to have your expectations in check and know that you’re probably not going to walk out with an agent and a publishing contract.


Frequently Asked Question 1: “Where Can I Find an Agent?”

The short answer is, not here. Agents don’t come to the Frankfurt Book Fair, or BEA or any of the big industry shows to find new clients. They go to have meetings, make deals and usually have their schedule pretty cemented before they get there. At Frankfurt, unless you had a meeting you weren’t getting into the agent area, no matter how excited you were about being there, or sure you were that an agent would like your book. Save yourself the heartache and query the traditional way. If you try to sneak your way into the agent area or approach them when they’re trying to grab a quick bite to eat, you will most likely be seen as a nuisance and that will only hurt, not help, your chances of getting an agent. Authors who query agents do a lot of research when it comes to finding agents and knowing which ones to approach, how to approach them and making sure they follow submission guidelines. Simply coming to a book fair doesn’t put you above the fray in this respect. If you want to pitch agents in person you should attend a writers conference where this is the focus otherwise you can do a lot more from the comfort of your own home, behind your computer, for free.

FAQ 2: “Where Can I Find a Publisher for a (Children’s book/mystery novel/ insert genre here)?”

First, I don’t know how open publishers are to meeting with authors at these shows, I know big ones like Harper Collins and Penguin Random House will most likely turn you away and tell you to submit via your agent (see above). For the smaller publishers I am not sure how they’d feel about authors approaching them at a fair like Frankfurt but regardless, this is research you should have done BEFORE coming to the fair. As in, you should find out yourself which publishers take your kinds of books (and whether or not they take unsolicited submissions) and try to email them and set up a meeting before coming to Frankfurt/any other fair like Frankfurt. This way, you’ll know if they’re willing to meet with you and won’t be wasting your time walking from booth to booth. Many of the smaller publishers held meetings within their booths as well, so you could run the risk of interrupting a business transaction, not something you want to be associated with. It’s not the book fair staff’s job, or really anyone else unless their business model is consulting authors on such matters, to research publishers or have a list of publishers for you to approach.

FAQ 3: So, what SHOULD I be doing here then?

This is the only, non-waste-of-time question. There are some author signings, books being sold in certain halls, and other authors to meet and interact with. As stated above if you manage to get a meeting before the fair (and please make sure you’re not spamming/harassing anyone for these) then that’s most likely the only time you’ll get dedicated face time with a publisher or agent, but especially when it comes to agents this is probably not going to happen. Instead take the time to learn about the business side of the industry, see which publishers are there and look at their display, see which ones have books similar to yours and make notes for when you return home to find out if they’re a company you could submit to. There are sometimes panels you can attend and if self-publishing is something you’re interested in there are also networking events for self-publishing authors or those interested in it. If you have a book at the CBE display stop by and take pictures, tweet to your followers and FB friends about it, build buzz around your book. But in terms of you getting an agent or publisher at Frankfurt, you’d be better served by doing your research on Google.

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