Lars Birken Bertsch Interview Frankfurt Authors
© Frank Krings / Frankfurter Buchmesse
Our colleague Lars Birken-Bertsch presents the new Frankfurt Authors area and explains in passing how writing and publishing are changing in the 21st century.
Hello Lars! Your business card says, “Business Development Trade DACH”. Wow. What does that mean and what’s your background?
LBB: For the Frankfurter Buchmesse, I take a 360° look at the German-language book sector, with a particular focus on fiction, nonfiction and self-help and how-to books. Because we want everyone — whether bookseller, author, editor, self-publishing author or organiser of literary events — to do business and be able to network at the fair. I myself started out as a bookseller and worked as a publisher and head of marketing. As a result, I know quite a bit about the wide range of the industry and its needs.
You’re also responsible for the new Frankfurt Authors area, which is replacing the Self-Publishing area. What’s the story behind that?
LBB: The digital is not an end in itself. The aim is to continue to develop the Self-Publishing area: We want to shift the focus from technology to users, with all their creative capacity. Frankfurt Authors is for anyone who sees her or himself as an author, acts as a broker for or offers other services to authors. By “authors”, in this context, we mean everyone who writes, if you are writing you belong to Frankfurt Authors.
What does this look like in concrete terms?
Authors can book the Frankfurt Authors package, for example, which includes a 30-minute slot in the Frankfurt Authors Corner, a ticket to the Frankfurt Authors Conference as well as a trade-visitor ticket for the full duration of the fair. The area itself will be spacious and open, so that several events can take place there at the same time. After all, the new motto is: All about writing!
As an industry insider, can you tell us what different kinds of authors one meets at Frankfurter Buchmesse?
LBB: On the one hand, of course, you have the traditional publishing-house authors, who come to the fair with their publishing houses, give readings and are looking for contact with the media. Then there are the independent authors, whom I don’t want to call “self-publishers” anymore because that’s too technical. After all, there’s more involved than just publishing: Independent authors have a different approach to networking — at conventions, on social media and in online communities or on crowdfunding platforms like Patreon. And then there’s also the significant number of “hybrid” authors, who publish both with publishing houses and independently, sometimes under different names.
How do you see the role of authors in the coming years?
LBB: In the last decade alone, a lot has changed for authors as a result of new digital possibilities. There’s been a democratisation of writing and publishing. It’s becoming increasingly easy to reach the audience, but at the same time authors are expected to do more and more PR and marketing work and there’s a constantly growing demand for their physical presence. Publishing houses will have to do more to support them in all this in the future. There’s a need for “activating publishers”. And, in the future, authors will be even more involved in determining how to market themselves, with their own booking agencies for readings, and their own merchandise and online channels. The utilisation chain is no longer linear, but “cross”. And authorship no longer ends with the book alone.
Lars, what are you looking forward to most at Frankfurter Buchmesse in October?
LBB: Without a doubt the awarding of the first Deutsche Verlagspreis, a German publishers prize whose jury I’m lucky enough to be on. The award honours the enormous cultural achievements of smaller publishing houses, which often live hand to mouth.
Thanks for the conversation, Lars!
(Interview by Frank Krings, PR Manager at Frankfurter Buchmesse.)
For more about the Frankfurt Authors area and author packages go to: www.buchmesse.de/en/frankfurt-authors