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News You Can Use from Frankfurt

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Though you’re reading this in December, I’m writing it just after the Frankfurt Book Fair in October. But much of the information I want to share is relevant at all times.

The dollar this year sank to an unimaginable low against most other currencies throughout the world, which is both good news and bad news.

The bad news is that if you are traveling and using U.S. currency to purchase products, food, and lodging, you end up cringing when the bills appear. When we first started going to Frankfurt, we could purchase three deutschmarks for every U.S. dollar. To show you how far the dollar went in those days (and they weren’t very long ago), a meal in a decent restaurant would cost 15 DM (approximately $5 U.S.). Now Germany is on the euro; and this year it cost us $1.21 U.S. for one euro. The prices on the meals in the restaurant are still around 15 euros, so the dinner we paid $5 for a few years back now costs us $18.15. Needless to say, this year I came home with no souvenirs for anyone.

Now the good news: Because our dollar is so weak, buyers from lots of countries who had never been able to license our products before can afford to do that now. This meant that our days in Frankfurt were humming. My calendar was booked from 9 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. each day we were there. Business was booming. We came back with more requests for reading copies than ever before. We even had some offers on the floor. So, although it cost us more to do business in Frankfurt this year, it was definitely worth being there.

Gleanings

Here’s an interesting comment I overheard at one of the social functions that dovetail into the Frankfurt workday: A British publisher said the firm would probably be printing in the U.S. this year instead of in the U.K. because the cost of printing here is so much lower than it is there. Does that mean that the U.S. is turning into a third-world printing option for Europe?

And here are some other interesting tidbits discovered this year in Frankfurt, which some of you out there might be able to take advantage of:

    • Caroline Smith, director of publications for the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE), mentioned that she is looking for sales and marketing representation in the United States. She reports that her company publishes approximately 12 books a year and has a strong backlist. In the past, its books were distributed by the Chemical Engineers Society in this country, but since the society’s sale to Wiley, it has not been represented here. Please contact Caroline directly if you are interested in filling this slot (Davis Building, 165-189 Railway Terrace, Rugby CV21 3HQ, UK; 44-1788578214; fax 44-1788-534426; csmith@icheme.org.uk; www.icheme.org).
    • When thinking about whether or not your book can attract foreign rights buyers, you should consider many things, including translation hurdles. You’ve Got Manners!–a book we had with us this year that most people loved when they looked at it–utilizes the alphabet to explain various aspects of manners and cannot be translated to other languages because (for example) the word used to explain the letter B in English probably doesn’t begin with the letter B in other countries. Buyers from many nations loved the concept of this book, but it could be licensed only in countries where English is the primary language.
    • It’s hard to sell rights in books that are more than 250 pages long since, it turns out, English is a small language and all others are big. By that I mean our language is very concise. A German, Dutch, or Spanish translation of an English-language book often uses three words to substitute for one of ours. Of course, this increases the size of the book, and foreign publishers are not interested in translating large volumes. So succinct wins out in most countries.
    • Unlike at most other Frankfurt Book Fairs, this year no one book seemed to stand out from the others in terms of requests from rights buyers, although just about every foreign-language buyer seemed to enjoy God on God, published by PMA member Aurora Production A.G. Perhaps the success of Conversations with God helped generate the many requests for reading copies. We should know next year how many of these requests turned into actual purchases!

Now here we are in December, which is definitely a month of reflection and thanks for many of us. As we move toward another year, I wish all of our members and readers peace, joy, and prosperity in 2005.

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