Madeleine Milburn on the Frankfurt Book Fair 2014
Q Why is the Frankfurt Book Fair so important?
After London Book Fair, Frankfurt is the biggest event on the publishing calendar. It’s such an excellent opportunity to meet with publishers from all over the world: to learn about book trends and how other markets are doing, what foreign publishers are looking for, and to check up on how our own authors are doing in translation.
Q How many meetings do you take on average?
We have back-to-back meetings with international editors every day of the fair without a single break, all of which have been organised months in advance. They all run for 30 minutes and we have them at our tables in the Agent’s center, so my assistant and I were able to pitch our authors’ books to approximately 200 publishers over the course of five days.
Q What is the social side of Frankfurt like?
Meetings are usually followed by drinks, dinner and then more drinks! Hotels such as the Frankfurter Hof and the Hessischer Hof are excellent grounds for bumping into agents and editors, and for making new contacts.
I attend dinners and host parties to talk to international editors about all the things we don’t have time to discuss in the 30 minute slots. This makes book fairs truly exhilarating as they are packed with social occasions, but then, some of the best business is done in the evenings!
Q What was your big book at the fair?
We discuss all of our authors’ work with potential publishers at the fair, although our YA début, The Creswell Plot by Eliza West, was covered in The Bookseller Daily newsletter announcing our major publishing deals with Disney in America and Quercus in the UK. Our adult début, Recipes for Melissa by former BBC presenter Teresa Driscoll, was sold in a seven-way German auction at the fair.
Q Why is the Frankfurt Book Fair such an important event in the year for your agency?
This business is all about relationships, so the stronger the relationship we have with an international publisher, the more we know about their individual lists and the books they’d love to publish.
I’ve been attending the Frankfurt book fair for the last eight years so I have really strong relationships with the international publishers I work with. When I’m reading a client’s book, I immediately have in mind the publishers I want to send it to, not just in the UK but in Germany, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Brazil, and the rest of the world!
Q What was the fair like for your Agency this year?
Frankfurt was buzzing for the Agency – we had lots of outstanding new titles to pitch by existing authors, and we also had exciting debuts by new clients.
I love getting a début novel into as many hands as possible, and even doing deals at the table, but what I find incredibly rewarding is matching backlist titles with international publishers – titles that may not have been popular in a particular country a few years ago can have a new life now.
Q How important do you think foreign rights are?
I love working internationally because my authors get opportunities for success all over the world. For instance, my author Janet MacLeod Trotter has sold over 150,000 copies in Russia alone; C.J. Daugherty’s books are translated into 22 different languages and she’s a No.1 bestselling author in Poland and No.2 in Germany.
The rights deals we negotiate not only provide our authors with a library of foreign editions, but they can earn a valuable income with advances and royalties from each country their work is translated in.
My role as an agent is to ensure that my authors are reaching an audience around the world. Every single book sale is important to me – I only have a good night’s sleep if I’ve done a deal that day 🙂