Frankfurt Agents Centre move prompts mixed reactions

Ed Nawotka and Neill Denny
News - Publishing Friday, 12 October 2018

Comments from 'unmitigated disaster' to 'maybe I won't have to wait in line to pee'

While many North American publishers were unaware that the Frankfurt Book Fair next year was moving the LitAg, the literary Agents Centre, from Hall 6 to the Festhalle, those who were aware of the situation were unequivocal in their criticism. "It's an unmitigated disaster," said an American publisher who requested anonymity. "I'm going to have to make several changes. Either I will have to bring more staff to Frankfurt to accommodate our being in two places at once, or I am going to have to schedule one day of meetings at the Agents Centre and one day at my booth. Either way, it's a lose lose."

Johanna Ingalls, managing editor of Akashic Books (Hall 6.0), said: "I don't like it. The change will mean that my fair is almost guaranteed to be less productive. I am going to have to take half as many meetings and its likely that my meetings will have to be shortened to 15 minutes, rather than 30."

The LitAg has moved several times in the past decade, frustrating some, in order to accommodate growth; this year the centre has 538 tables, up from some 500 the year before. Among the agents themselves, the reaction has been mixed. "We are constantly told that we are ‘the heart of the fair' and rights are the very reason for the fair's existence, yet we are being treated like pawns," said one, who noted the existence of a petition circulating in the LitAg asking the fair to reconsider the decision.

Another agent, who asked not to be named for fear of backlash, suggested that the move might prove to be auspicious. "I don't know what all the complaining is about. It's not as if what we have now is so luxurious," she said. "And who knows, maybe the Festhalle will be a nicer venue - maybe it will finally have enough women's bathrooms so I won't have to wait in line to pee."

British publishers have expressed misgivings at the move. The new venue is a five-minute walk from Hall 6 using the moving pavements on the elevated walkway.

David Shelley, UK ceo of Hachette, said: "It is not going to be seriously inconvenient, but it is obviously not ideal." He predicted that there would be more meetings held in Hall 6, or "people would get fit" travelling to and from the Festhalle. Jeremy Trevathan, publisher at Macmillan, said he was "concerned" about the move.

Photo: Frankfurter Buchmesse

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