The Frankfurt Book Fair 2016

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We found out a little while ago that HAI member, children’s artist Rachelle Meyer, was going to the 2016 Frankfurt Book Fair and we asked her if she’d be kind enough to report back to us after the event. We felt it would be a good opportunity for Rachelle to share her experience via the staff blog. – Darren Di Lieto


I went to the Frankfurt Buchmesse with few expectations and lots of curiosity. I’ve been to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair many times and what I kept hearing was that in comparison, the Frankfurt Book Fair is huge and overwhelming. I had three days, a few appointments, an iPhone, and a sketchbook. I made a point of exploring beyond the English-language and European halls where I already had appointments to find unfamiliar faces and new experiences.

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I can’t say for sure if my observations are the typical visitor experience or simply what I’m drawn to based on my personal preferences. My feeling about the trends in publishing is that there are more books now which are personal, political and hand-crafted. There was an entire stand devoted to the independent voices of INDIECON, with zines available for purchase on site. I bought this lovely comic by Tine Fetz. The side-stapled comic had crop lines still visible on many pages, which I found quite charming and added to its indy credentials.

Nils Oskamp’s excellent process sketches for his graphic novel, Drei Steine, drew me into the booth for the Amadeu Antonio Foundation. It was refreshing and empowering to speak to people who ardently want to make a difference in the world.

I loved the textural richness of the crafted books. Take, for example XY Printing Group‘s folded accordion style book which was illustrated entirely with paper cuts. It’s a gorgeous retelling by Anne Montbarbon of the traditional Three Little Pigs story. The hand-printed pages at Tara Books smelled so delicious from the inks they used. In addition the Flanders and the Netherlands (99 Flemish and Dutch authors and artists from every genre) were the guests of honor this year and in the guest pavilion, you could snag a beautiful limited-edition Parade magazine. Another nice detail was the Happy Hour, hosted by the Netherlands and Flanders, which featured typical Dutch/Flemish treats like mini-beers and tiny bowls of french fries with mayo.

To prepare for the book fair, I reached out to my publishing contacts and printed up a new batch of cards for distribution. Once there, I had a meeting that led to a new assignment and I also received an email from a publisher I had worked with before. The publisher had received my promotional postcard at just the right time to offer me a new project, showing in my opinion that my advertising was paying off. As a working illustrator, the fair was not just inspiring, but also rewarding from a financial and professional standpoint.

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Being in Frankfurt allowed me to touch base with a number of professional groups. I’m the International Illustrator Coordinator for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and they hosted a very informative and motivating workshop called “Supercharge Your Submissions with agent Hannah Sheppard” on the Saturday morning during the fair. I also got to catch up with some nice people from the SCBWI local chapter.

Chatting with people from the IO (German Illustratoren Organisation) left me feeling energized and hopeful about our direction and place in the industry. They’ve been around for ten years and have grown exponentially in this relatively short time. With these sort of positive communities and support bases, we have a greater chance of setting better terms for illustrators and making the industry we work in, work for us.

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I don’t know if I’ll go every year, but it was a very rewarding trip and I’ll definitely go again. – Rachelle Meyer (professional illustrator)


If you attended this year, say hello, share your experiences or leave a comment in the section below, as we’d love to hear from you. For information about Frankfurt Buchmesse 2017, please visit buchmesse.de