Publishers and agents are pleased with the first virtual Frankfurt Book Fair. Though some missed the warmth and vibrancy of face-to-face meetings, many noticed the increase in the number of appointments that being online allows and were also heartened by the sheer number of manuscripts on offer.
Transworld editorial director for non-fiction Andrea Henry said: “Personally I’m enjoying the virtual meetings. It’s meant being able to do many more meetings, with a greater variety of publishers and agents. The key has been to spread them out and do joint meetings with colleagues. We’re enjoying seeing some old faces and some new ones too. Reaching out has never been easier.”
Hachette Children’s Group rights director Tracy Phillips was also positive. “We are not restrained to the usual week in Germany, so our meetings kicked off in late September and will finish in early November. This is great for a rights team, as we can see everyone and take as long as we need for meetings. We have also seen so many editors that would not normally attend FBF.”
Many noticed the increase in submissions by black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) authors. At HarperCollins UKs’ Borough Press imprint editor Ore Agbaje-Williams said: “There have been a lot more submissions from BAME writers, which is brilliant to see as we work towards making sure our publishing is representative of the society we live in, both in terms of the authors and the teams who work with them.”
Agbaje-Williams thought there was an increase in submissions in general this year, observing “that’s likely to do with Covid-19 and the cancellation of the London Book Fair. I think a lot of agents were waiting to see if editors were still acquiring—a lot of editors weren’t sure if agents would be submitting in the same way, so I think everyone held back a little bit and saved their big LBF books for virtual Frankfurt.”
What this all means for Frankfurt 2021 is anyone’s guess at present. It is far too early for such decisions to be made – and everyone knows that with the coronavirus there is no certainty.