Two business people use both hands to exchange business cards.

How To: Tips and Tricks for International Book Fairs

As booklife states, international book fairs such as the Frankfurt Book Fair, the London Book Fair, the Beijing International Book Fair, and the Bologna Children’s Book Fair are some of the largest industry events in the world, which means they’re excellent opportunities to branch into new markets or sell your publisher’s rights. They’re also excellent opportunities to get hopelessly lost, confused, and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people and amount there is to do. If you want to make the plane ticket and entrance fee worth your while, it’s important to prepare before you land.

  1. Set a few easy goals, one or two moderate goals, and one pie in the sky.

    The easy goals can function as part of your daily to-do list. These goals can be “talk to two agencies” or “attend a panel and speak to the host.” Some moderate goals can be “pitch a catalog to three publishers” or “make a connection at a new distributor.” Your pie in the sky will be specific to the fair and your own professional aspirations, but it might be to acquire the rights to a famous author’s new book or strike a deal with a new press.

  2. Decide which panels and events to attend.

    As with any conference, cool events are scheduled concurrently. Really pore over the schedule beforehand to determine which events will be most worth your time and which ones you’ll regret not attending. Don’t forget to schedule time to eat and rest!

  3. Block out time to mingle.

    For rights agents, one of the most lucrative areas in any international book fair are the tables in the rights hall. There, agents, publishers, authors, and distributors meet, pitch, and exchange contact information with each other. Rights licensing is still a very face-to-face kind of job despite the advent of Zoom, and the face time with these industry professionals is invaluable to all agents.

  4. Take breaks to take notes.

    Meeting so many people back-to-back can easily become overwhelming. It’s near impossible to remember what was promised to who, which publisher is interested in which catalog you showed, and whose business cards you grabbed because they were interested in what you had or because you’re interested in what they had. Taking notes while talking to people can sometimes be considered rude, so be sure to stay engaged in the conversation, then step aside to write yourself a quick note. Later on when you have more time, write more detailed notes on what exactly was said and promised.

  5. Bring an organizational tool.

    You’ll be handed a lot of papers. Flyers, catalogs, business cards, notes, marketing collateral, and maybe a tipsheet here and there. They’ll all be different sizes and supremely difficult to maintain. I recommend a folder or binder for the larger papers, a notebook for your personal notes, and endless paper clips to pin the paraphernalia to the relevant note. Figure out what works best for you so it doesn’t require much thought to put away all the little bits of essential papers you’ll acquire.

  6. Research foreign customs.

    When visiting another country, it’s always a good idea to brush up on polite phrases and basic manners. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that international book fairs will have people from all around the world. Researching Italian customs for Bologna won’t be enough; it’s critical to also look into business practices with anyone you plan to meet. Mistakes can be made and forgiven, but deals will always go smoother with less bumps in the road. It’s best to be prepared.

All in all, book fairs are fun, lively events that can really jumpstart your career or that of an author you represent. They can be overwhelming, but with these quick tips, you can make the most of your time and money. Have fun and good luck!

Image credit:

“Yuka Nakamura Exchanges Business Cards” by U.S.-Japan Council is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

small sailboat on blue waters with a city skyline in the background

An Author’s Guide to International Book Covers

You’ve written a book, and it’s been published—now what? First of all, congratulations! It’s not easy to get to this point. If your book has done well in the domestic market, you might consider trying your chances abroad. Like any new venture, research is key. A quick perusal of international editions of books reveals that they all have different covers—even American books published in England (or vice versa) get different covers.

So, why do international book covers exist? As the publishing world moves further into the digital age, the practice of separating copyright by territory or country is becoming less common. More and more often, publishers retain “world English rights,” i.e. the rights to publish a book in English in any English-speaking country in the world. Despite this change, many publishing professionals, especially those who work in rights, have pushed against the growing tendency for world rights, and their motivations largely have to do with covers and marketing.

It may sound oversimplified, but many people don’t realize how different markets are in different areas. What sells well in Boston may not sell well in Houston or Los Angeles, and this is doubly true for different countries. Even when a publisher or agent is absolutely sure that the novel they have will do fantastically in another country, they are always aware that the book will have to be repackaged to fit its new market. This includes the positioning, the promo, the tagline—and the cover.

If you want your book to sell well in a new market, it’s always best to have marketers and designers from that area work on the foreign edition. They will know which elements of your novel will appeal to readers in their country and how to entice those readers to buy your novel.

Now that you’ve decided to publish your novel internationally, what kind of cultural considerations should be examined for your new international book cover? Not paying attention to cultural norms and differences can lead to a lot of issues down the line and can dramatically impact sales. If your designer is not part of the edition’s target culture and market, or if you are designing your own book cover, research is absolutely necessary. Do a deep dive into how covers in your genre are designed in your target market—pay attention to colors, symbols, fonts, figures, patterns, ethnicity of figures shown, etc. Always do some beta testing—send your concept art to readers in the target market and see what they think. It’s important to be open to suggestions! It’s hard to predict cultural impact, and remember that while you may be an expert on your book, you’re not an expert on your book’s target market.

Book production is a collaborative process, and publishing internationally is even more so. Lean on your community and grow new ties as you go on this journey. We live in a global digital age, so you might as well make the most of it!