ATTENDENCE AT THE Frankfurt Book Fair should be mandatory for all who prophesy the death of the book. Last year 6,169 publishers came to Germany in October to meet, wheel and deal. This year the six-day fair, which opened October 9, attracted 6,440 exhibitors representing 77 countries. Frankfurt is simply the biggest. Only the Cairo International Book Fair (with 42 countries) and the Bologna Children's Book Fair (60 countries) come anywhere near it. The Fair is housed in four gigantic pavilions, and even the size of the catalog -- 1,162 pages long and weighing in at 2 pounds 5 ounces -- daunts the imagination.
Unlike other trade fairs, Frankfurt serves not only the 60,000-odd publishers and agents who do business there, it is also open to the public. Every day after 2 p.m., the visitors pay their six marks and stream into the Buchmesse. About 110,000 came last year, generating more than $250,000 in revenue and at the same time, unequivocally demonstrating the interest of the German people in the world of books.
It is in fact, the vastness and variety of the German publishing trade that first strikes the foreign visitor. While the rest of the world fields 4,000 exhibitors, the two Germanies alone have 1,809. Hall Five was so crammed with exhibits and onlookers that it is hard to make any progress down the aisles. Outside on the grass hundreds picnicked, and on one sunny day this year's fair resembled a '60s festival, inspired by books instead of rock music. Why Frankfurt?
WHAT BRINGS THESE hordes of publishers to Frankfurt? "I make money at Frankfurt," said Boston publisher David Godine. "One or two good books pay for the trip." He added somewhat sheepishly, "And I love it."
For Townsend Hoopes, the soon-to-retire president of the Association of American Publishers, the draw is different: "We take advantage of the gathering of the people we want to see. Everyone is here. It's an opportunity for various international publishing groups to meet, and for some ceremonial occasion." The AAP gives an annual luncheon for the U.S. Ambassador to Germany -- this year the newly appointed Richard Burt.
But for most fairgoers Frankfurt is a place for buying and selling, seeing and listening. Afred A. Knopf senior foreign rights executive, Carol Janeway, does "an enormous amount of international business." She begins her day with breakfast with a foreign publisher at 7 a.m., eats a second breakfast with another publisher at 8, stays all day at the fair, attends cocktail receptions in the evening and then retires to her hotel room to read book synopses and occasionally even manuscripts. It's frenetic trading in literary options and as hard on the nerves as the floor of the stock exchange.
The key to professional success at Frankfurt, said Washington agent Raphael Sagalyn, is appointments. "It all happens so fast." The frantic pace and limited time means that to see key people, you must have an appointment -- diaries produced especially for the fair divide each day into 30 minute segments from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and by the second day many books are already full. This pressure of perpetual meetings -- "Your booth or mine?" -- accounts for the scurrying, surging appearance of the International Hall. No one is sauntering, no one at a loose end -- even a trip to the "MiniPic" foodstand is made at a run. Stockman and Ferraro: Balancing the Payments
DAVID STOCKMAN'S budget director's odyssey, now entitled "The Triumph of Politics" was a hot property for Harper and Row.
Robert Ducas, a tall rumpled Englishman who looks like a character out of an Evelyn Waugh novel, has been hired by H&R especially to sell world rights to the Stockman book. With $2 million tied up in the deal, Harper's is taking no chances. Ducas, for many years with the British Times newspapers in New York, is a veteran of selling worldwide syndication, including the Kissinger memoirs. "This book is not memoirs," he said enthusiastically. "Stockman is looking into the future as well as the past." Pressed on specifics, he admitted to having read the opening pages which "tell what makes Stockman Stockman."
Ducas already has a joint deal with the Sunday Times and the Bodley Head in England for "six-figures in dollars," and in Germany the Magazine Der Spiegel and Bertelsmann publishers have anted up a similar figure. Stateside, Newsweek is all set to do for Stockman what they've already done for Lee Iacocca and Geraldine Ferraro: a cover story and long excerpt.
Two aisles over, at Bantam Ferraro's own book was on the block. Subsidiary rights director Nina Hoffman, unlike Ducas, had a finished book to sell. Ferraro, however, apparently doesn't have quite the international recognition factor of a Stockman, although there is interest in the problems facing a woman in American public life. But Hoffman was far from discouraged: "It is exactly like Iacocca," she said. "Last year at Frankfurt, Foreign publishers were asking me, 'Iacocca who?' This year they're more cautious. When I say Ferraro, they say 'Oooh?'"
Bantam U.K. is publishing the book in England this fall, and Hoffman is "positioning" sales for other countries. Most are waiting to see how the book sells in the United States before signing up. But with 10,000 copies of Iacocca sold recently in the first week after publication in Sweden, and Bantam's $1-million acquisition of Sally Beauman's romantic epic Destiny, the talk of the fair, Hoffman's credibility is pretty good. Around the Fair
ANOTHER AMERICAN offering encountering a wait-and-see attitude among foreign publishers was The Inman Diary. The subject of much recent critical attention in America, the two-volume work was prominently displayed at the Harvard University Press booth. Harvard's subsidiary rights manager Jonathan Matson said he'd had nibbles from France, Italy and Germany, but no bites yet. "Once they see the reviews -- I mean they are comparing it to Proust, to Dostoevsky! But this project needs a lot of translation money." Minus the language problem, Harvard is publishing the diary themselves in the U.K.
Over at the large French house of Robert Laffont, they were investing in the future. Isabel Laffont, whose company publishes American bestselling authors Robert Ludlum and Nancy Friday, had just purchased a new novel by Norman Mailer, "on the basis of 300 pages of manuscript." Don't look for Harlot's Ghost in French stores soon, though. Laffont said that Mailer's U.S. publisher, Random House, "doesn't want to hurry Mr. Mailer," so he's under no pressure to repeat his express writing feat of Tough Guys Don't Dance.
Thrillers, as always, abound. British novelist Jeffrey Archer (Kane and Abel, First Among Equals) began life as a writer after failing as a businessman and giving up as a politician. Having gained best selling status around the world, and recouped a few million, Archer recently cleared his political record by becoming deputy chairman of Margaret Thatcher's Conservative Party. His agent Deborah Owen says that despite his new obligations, there's a new Archer novel coming next July. The Czar's Crown is "a chase thriller, a modern Thirty-Nine Steps."
There's a new novel too from former American politico John Ehrlichman. The China Card was being sold by Random House. It may be the beginning of a new trend, since it features a Red Chinese spy -- in the Nixon White House no less. Take that, KGB! Prize Winners
JERUSALEM'S mayor Teddy Kollek received Frankfurt's Friedenpreis (Peace Prize) awarded every year since 1950 by the German book industry during the fair. Kollek, honored for his effortsto reconcile Jews and Arabs, joined such distinguished laureates as Albert Schweitzer, (1951), Hermann Hesse (1955) and George F. Kennan (1982).
The recently-released short list for the British Booker Prize for fiction now carrying a hefty s15,000 award was much debated. Among the finalists are veterans Doris Lessing (The Good Terrorist), Iris Murdoch (The Good Apprentice), and Jan Morris (Letters from Hav). Peter Carey (Illywacker) and Keri Hulme (The Bone People) from Australia and New Zealand respectively represent more experimental voices. J.L. Carr (The Battle of Pollocks Crossing) is the author of an earlier novel, A Month in the Country, which won the Guardian fiction prize. Jonathan Cape managing director Graham Greene (no relation to the author) said that having won before would "effectively eliminate Murdoch," and Claire Tomalin of the London Sunday Times tipped either Lessing "who is due to be honored after years of passionately-felt writing" or Carey "who writes with the spinning energy and enjoyment of someone who has discovered you can make up the world with your pen." Final decision comes October 31. On the Fringe
ONE OF THE MORE tranquil booths was occupied by Editions Alecto (Doomsday), publishing not another tract on the nuclear threat but a facsimile edition of The Great Doomsday Book, a survey of 11th-century Britain made by William the Conqueror, which survives to this day in Britain's Public Record Office. The facsimile will retail for s3,000 and is being prepared to coincide with the 900th anniversary of The Doomsday Book in 1986. Alecto's Henrietta Pearson said that as they work on their facsimile, the University of California at Santa Barbara is using their very 20th-century computer center to prepare a comprehensive index expected to reveal much new information -- a unique intra-century publishing project.
The Italians were handing out free copies of their magazine NBN (New Book News) with a special Frankfurt insert featuring a centerfold board game called "Buchmesse or The Publishing Trades" in which players throw dice to progress through squares marked "Wildly unsuccessful author; go back to start" or "Literary agent; go forward to square 42." The object of the game? To reach square 43, "Large publisher at the book fair."