New Zealand was the guest of Honour at the 2012 Frankfurt Book Fair
Ripple by Tui Allen was chosen to represent New Zealand and we are proud to say is a
2012 B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree
Thank you Tui for taking the time to share your thoughts-
My book Ripple was selected by the New Zealand Society of Authors (NZSA) as one of forty to represent NZ literature at Frankfurt. This happened because NZ was this year’s Frankfurt “Country of Honour.” It’s a bit like being the host country at the Olympics, except that the fair is always in Frankfurt Germany.
It is the biggest book fair in the world and is the size of a medium sized NZ town except taller. Being on many levels, it goes higher into the sky than towns do here. To get around its buildings you catch a bus!
We NZSA authors became known in NZ as the “Frankfurt Forty” The list we were chosen from did not include authors who had already been chosen by the Publisher’s Association of New Zealand (PANZ). The PANZ authors were all very well-known and had been thoroughly conventionally published and their Frankfurt costs were paid for them. Several of the NZSA list were like me, self published authors. NZSA selected on quality and suitability of the work alone – not on the status of the publisher. About a dozen of the Frankfurt Forty travelled to the fair at their own expense, like me.
I’ve always found my biggest rewards are out there beyond my comfort zone and for a stay-at-home like me, Frankfurt was certainly that. Time will tell if any of the conversations I had there will come to anything but even if none are fruitful, the trip was worth it for highlights like the opening ceremony in the stunningly designed NZ Pavilion, wearing my magic “Ripple” cape for my pitch on the Sparks stage, my bizarre invitation to the Latvian reception, my conversation with Witi Ihimaera (author of Whale Rider) at the NZ pavilion, the fun had with fellow NZ authors from our shared base in Kaiserlei, the NZSA dinner on the Saturday, and many conversations with folk I could never otherwise have met from all over the publishing world.
Strange as it may seem, authors are not all that welcome at Frankfurt; it’s about publishers wheeling and dealing to sell and buy rights. So we were advised beforehand to present ourselves as publishers – not authors. After all, if you’ve self published, you are a small publisher.
We had been warned it wouldn’t be easy. Compared to marketing your book the usual way, the whole process was condensed in space and time so you had to take all the rejection in a few days that you might normally face over months, but there were also more of those promising flashes of hope, often resulting from luck. I had rejection. I also had luck in getting some useful interviews. Perhaps something will come of one of them. There is a huge amount of follow-up work to do after the fair.
Hall 8 had most of the English language book publishers. Our books were on display at the NZSA stand in Hall 8 and the stand became a home away from home where the friendly faces were so reassuring after hours of ego battering. My copies on the stand proudly wore their gold Indiebrag medallion stickers and looked terrific.
I was lucky enough to win a five minute pitch on the Sparks Stage in Hall 8. It went well and I was invited back onto the stage afterwards to join a panel discussion there. Onstage, I was seated right next to the representative from Amazon!
When “at home” on the NZSA stand we supported one another and promoted each other’s books to whoever passed by and took interest in them. For example, while I was away doing my pitch on the Sparks Stage, one of our other authors on the stand gave a copy of my Ripple to a passing publisher from Czechoslovakia who took an interest in it. Who knows, Ripple could turn up in translation as a result of that. I did the same kind of thing for the others when they were away and I was at home.
My magic “Ripple” cape was specially made for me to wear in Frankfurt. It was a gift from a friend in NZ, the owner of Karisma Alpacas. She creates fantasy alpaca garments I could never normally afford. It seemed to bring me luck whenever I wore it there. The picture shows me wearing it at home in sunny NZ, where it looks a little inappropriate. She also made me an exquisite Ripple shawl which is very formal and I’m saving that for something even more special than Frankfurt and feel sure that now I have the garment, the occasion will arise. She designed the garments to match my Ripple book cover and the “koru” spirals reflect NZ. At the opening ceremony, a complete stranger walked up to me and said, “You look like a walking representation of your country.” At night under artificial light the cape came alive with all the hand sewn seedpearls and glittery bits sparkling like a night sky.
There’s nothing stopping anyone from booking a stand at Frankfurt any year. Maybe some IndieBrag authors could get together and share the costs to do this one year. This year the big advantage for us, was our link to the country of honour, but another year, it might be better to be attached to a group like IndieBrag.
Being such a country bumpkin, I was hopeless at navigating the biggest city I’d ever experienced, but the locals proved fantastic at sorting me out whenever I lost my way.
Frankfurt Book-fair? Mind-blowing for a simple kiwi girl like me.