Erin L. Cox, Publicist
I have been attending the book fair for 14 years. There are thousands of memorable moments in that time, from meeting famous writers and artists (Olga Tokarczuk, Mohsin Hamid, Salman Rushdie, Leila Slimani, Sjón, David Hockney), to learning about new technology and how it impacts the publishing world (AI, blockchain, etc), to visiting each Guest of Honor country’s pavilion and their literary events (Iceland was my favorite), not to mention seeing friends and colleagues I only see once a year.
But, nothing can compare to the very first time you attend the book fair. I attended my first book fair in 2009. The Kindle and ebooks were challenging the industry, the term “metadata” was buzzing around, China was Guest of Honor Country, and I was very confident heading to Frankfurt.
I started my career in book publishing in 1999 and there was very little I didn’t know about the US book market, having worked as a bookseller, at a Big Five publisher, at The New Yorker magazine, as a literary agent, and as a consultant.
Yet, when I walked into the Messe for the first time, I felt like I knew nothing at all. Though I had attended Book Expo America each year, the Frankfurt Book Fair was ten times the size. Though I knew so much about the US market, I knew next to nothing about the global publishing industry. And, when I walked into a literary party in the US, I knew most of the people in the room.
In Frankfurt, I knew next to no one. It felt daunting at first – the size, the scope, the different perspectives, the new information, but rather than being overwhelmed, I felt exhilarated. Every person I met was warm and welcoming. Every stage packed with panels and discussions and readings that were fascinating and engaging. Every meeting and encounter brought new ideas and creativity and partnerships of one kind or another. My eyes were opened in a new way and I was excited to learn.
Each year, I return and feel that same exhilaration I felt the first time—that same thrill of being at the Messe with like-minded individuals from around the world, sharing ideas, enthusiasm, and stories.