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Interview with Raquel Menezes, Director of Oficina Raquel in Brazil

Raquel Menezes, director of the Brazilian publishing house Oficina Raquel

© Raquel Menezes

In the past months Frankfurter Buchmesse organised several digital workshops for publishers from Latin America, Arabic-language countries, Africa and Southeast Asia to support the participants in selling rights internationally – especially in times of the global COVID-19 pandemic. We asked Raquel Menezes, Director of Oficina Raquel in Brazil, to share her insights into the Brazilian market and how she benefited from the Frankfurt Rights International workshop held by Frankfurter Buchmesse.

Oficina Raquel is a publishing house based in Rio de Janeiro that began publishing handcrafted poetry books in 2006. Over the years, and with the incorporation of Raquel Menezes, it expanded its print runs and has currently an extensive catalog of poetry, fiction, history, philosophy and essays as well as books on feminism and politics. Raquel Menezes, who has twice been president of the Brazilian League of Independent Publishers (LIBRE) and finalist of the PublishNews Book Industry Young Talents Award, directs Oficina Raquel. In the interview, she shares her insights into the Brazilian market and how she benefited from the Frankfurt Rights International workshop held by Frankfurter Buchmesse.

How is the Brazilian publishing industry doing? How has it been affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic?

Unfortunately, the Brazilian publishing market was already suffering a crisis before it was hit by the pandemic. The little investment in education makes us a country with a low number of readers. In many areas, we could observe that many things were getting even worse. On the other hand, however, people at home started to read more, including e-books and audiobooks. That’s a positive effect.

How are you doing personally? Have you managed to get your publishing company through the crisis well?

From a personal point of view, looking back on the past year, we have gone through many different moments and emotions. We were vacillating between hope and sadness, between discouragement and hyperactivity.

At the publishing house, we made many adaptations: investments in social networks and digital marketing, an even closer look at the entire digital opportunities. But we’ve been also too optimistic. In December 2020, we planned to publish 25 books in 2021. In February, we decided to decrease it to 17 books.

What challenges and, also what opportunities have arisen for you?

At Oficina Raquel, we are more focused on the digital opportunities. We learned a lot about social networks and the way we can relate to our customers. We took advantage of the first days working from our home offices to improve our metadata. In addition, we learned how to do events online. In April, for example, we held Rio que lê, an event aimed at teachers, mediators and librarians. More than 5000 people from all over Brazil participated and that is a number and variety that we never would have reached in a face-to-face event.

What are your wishes for the Brazilian (independent) publishing scene and for your licensing business?

Obviously, we as independent publishers, suffer a lot from the pandemic, but I also noticed that we are now able to adapt faster and easier. In other words, we are more flexible, maybe because of our small size. The thing I wish for the most is that independent publishers are able to maintain their creative spirit that allows them to stand out in the market. I hope that our creativity gets recognised (and monetised, of course). We have many good names to present to the foreign market.

How can the Frankfurter Buchmesse and/or Frankfurt Rights support you in this?

After more than a year without participating in events, connecting with other publishers through Frankfurt Rights is very helpful. It gives us the possibility to learn more about the international marketplaces and offers interesting rights and trends.

How did you like our Frankfurt Rights International Workshop?

I found the initiative very interesting. It kept the editors connected. The structure of the workshop was also very good.

Which learnings have you already been able to implement in your work?

In my case, my assistant was the one who attended the workshop. For him, who has not yet been to any international book fair, it was an opportunity to get to know the international market and to be better prepared for when we can attend face-to-face meetings again.

What are your expectations regarding Frankfurt Rights?

I want to present and sell rights. In this way I’m able to make our catalogue better known.

What do you think will change post-COVID?

Like all events, I believe that international book fairs will move towards a hybrid model. Although face-to-face networking is more enjoyable, online actions can significantly reduce costs. Nevertheless, this pandemic teaches us that we do not always need large structures, not only from an “green-economic” point of view, but if we look at nature carefully. These meetings have an expense of inputs that can be reviewed and the hybrid model can help us. I say this, for example, in relation to the Guest of Honour Country, which could have a more interactive and digital structure in the future.

Are you planning to visit the Frankfurter Buchmesse 2021?

I would love to. First to reconnect with fellow publishers, but also of course, because it would mean that the world is healing.