Last week I spent two days at the Frankfurt Book Fair. It was my first visit and I had of course expected something huge, but the sheer scale of the Buchmesse still impressed me: About 7’300 exhibitors sharing six different multi-storey exhibition halls and more than 275’000 visitors spread over five days. As a writer and lover of books, it was a total delight to be part of it.
I had registered for a press ticket through my blog and was very happy to find out in August that my application had been successful. This meant that I could visit the fair during the week (professional days) as opposed to the weekend only with the general public. I made my way to Frankfurt on Wednesday October 9th and Thursday October 10th, with a couple of events I absolutely wanted to attend. One of them was Re-Inventing Publishing At A Global Scale, the CEO Panel with Markus Dohle, CEO of Penguin Random House. Five different editors or journalists from international trade publishing magazines asked him a few questions. The video is available on the Frankfurter Buchmesse website or you can read the transcript on Publishers Weekly. Here is a selection of my favourite quotes from Markus Dohle:
- The authors are the center of what we are doing and the alignment with our authors is extremely important for us.
- Our business model is not changing. It starts with discovering talent and nurturing talent and connecting that talent to the largest possible audience.
- We are basically saying that even 100 years from now, the print business will be a big chunk of our business.
- Here in continental Europe, you guys should be very optimistic. Yes, the market is mature, it’s stable. But stable is the new up. And it was always the new up in publishing, wasn’t it?
The hour allocated to the panel went by very quickly and at the end, I approached to take a couple of photos. I then noticed that a few people were lingering for a chance to talk to Markus Dohle and I decided to join them. I figured that this was probably the only time I would get that close to the CEO of a major trade publisher and I wanted to make the most of it. I waited until I caught his eye, then smiled and went up to him. I introduced myself and explained that I was a first time author trying to sell her novel. He chuckled and I reassured him that I was not going to pitch my book to him, but said instead: “If you had one piece of advice to give someone like me, what would it be?” He did not hesitate: “You absolutely must find an agent.” I told him this was my current task and he asked me how it was going. We then had a general chat about where I was based – with part of the conversation in German when he found out I lived in Germany – then I thanked him for his time and gave him my card. He smiled again, saying he liked it very much and that it was very original – I have mini-cards with photos of my wellies taken from my blog, should you be curious!