The Frankfurt Book Fair II

Great article in The Guardian about what goes on behind the scenes at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Editors meeting agents in half-hour increments (man, and I thought querying was like speed-dating); full diaries, boozy nights, buzzy days. About the only people in publishing that aren’t considered important in this week long feeding frenzy, according to this story, are authors. They’re referred to as ‘commodities.’

I get the sense of the trading floor of the various international stock exchanges where the price of hog futures is of critical importance but there’s not a pig in sight.

But then, those of us who think of writing as a creative process (which it is) must also recognize that it’s a business. And a Darwinian one at that. Only the fittest survive.

Apparently, the buzz at the Fair this year is about enhanced e-books .(This is a concept I remember discussing with my daughter years ago, musing how links in an electronic publication might take a reader to another story or background. She rolled her eyes.)

The future of books will apparently be stories that link to television series, video games, backstories,  and interviews with authors. In other words, multi-media. Which suggests that publishers lack confidence in people’s abilitities to, well,  read. I’m guessing we’ll be tweeting books next, 140 characters, line by line. (Okay, I’m waiting for it — eyeroll.)

And yet in the week leading up to the Fair, not only my book sold (at least the translation rights) but other debut authors received six and seven figure advances.

If the future is enhanced e-books, you’d think publishers would be looking for authors whose work has been filmed already or can be easily adapted to gaming.

Instead, we have big advances for a book about an 85 year old woman searching for a twin sister who disappeared in World War II, and another about a Muslim family’s struggle to find itself in a ‘deeply ambivalent society.’ Although I confess, the purchase of rights to a story about a werewolf, updated to the American West, to be published by Graywolf (no relation) probably fits the bill to a tee.

Maybe werewolves will be the new vampires. Personally, I’m counting on ghosts coming back. And that Fidel Castro’s death, which has to occur eventually, will make people more interested in reading about Cuba. (Particularly if he too comes back from the dead, which some Cubans consider inevitable.)

No news from my agent as to how things are going in Germany. I imagine that between dodging rather broad-based terrorist threats and matchmaking books with editors, he’s extremely busy. Fingers crossed that all goes well on both counts.

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