October means Frankfurt, the Frankfurt Book Fair, that is. It’s a pretty big deal, looming large in the calendar of anyone in the business of selling or buying rights in publishing. It is vast, vibrant and vital and it can do vicious things with your sleeping patterns (and your liver).
Last week was our first Frankfurt for Hot Key Books so it was the first time we were showing all of our wares: our complete launch list of nine irresistible books plus proofs of what is to come in 2013 to the rest of the publishing world. It was impossible not to feel just a teeny bit apprehensive. How would everyone respond to the books – and what about the cannibals?
The fair is a giant marketplace – a talking shop. Essentially, but not exclusively, it’s about what’s new and Hot Key just happens to be new. It’s an exciting and intense experience because this is where you learn precisely what other publishers are looking to buy and what they are NOT looking for…
This year in children’s books: thrillers are in, dystopias out, steamy ‘romances’ all the rage, mash-ups on the up, paranormal dodgy, but what I can say with absolute confidence is that Cannibals are Cool… Phew. I admit it – one of our books next year is Matt Whyman’s darkly funny THE SAVAGES, about a family with unusual taste in people. I think we might just be trailblazing here.
When I first heard about the as-yet-unwritten book i confess I wondered how anyone would wish to, or indeed could, write a book about a family of… can I say the c word again? We’d had vampyres, gargoyles, werewolves, terrorists but eating people is plain WRONG. But when the book arrived I understood – how had I forgotten: writers are writers because they transform the way you see things and they make you think (and admire and laugh) and realize that cannibals are actually just like the rest of us… except for that one tiny detail. I was smitten and so I spent my day talking about THE SAVAGES without compunction (and with finger-licking delight).
With so many competing books around, would Hot Key manage to stand out? And in this grisly economic climate would people want to buy from yet another new list? Well… happily the answer seems to be a fairly resounding yes. I am delighted to report that there was general amazement at the speed with which we had grown from nothing to a small but beautifully formed list; huge admiration for our look – our jackets are vibrant, clever, fresh; and there is something about the nature of our books that gives them a different kind of appeal – they are daring, inspiring and curious – and, dare I say, the cannibals helped.
There was something else too…the overriding preoccupation of the Fair, this year as for the last few years, has been the ‘future digital’ and we had a secret weapon – an extraordinary iBook of Sally Gardner’s Maggot Moon that had just been selected by the apple iBook store as its Editor’s Choice – pretty much the holy grail for apps… it is our only iBook and it’s brilliant… one editor said it was the most exciting thing she had seen at the fair. It was magic.
As we left the fair on the last day, we walked past what looked like a Manga convention where hoards of teenagers thronged the square dressed elaborately and extraordinarily as their favourite Japanese characters, and I had to smile at the power of books over the imagination. It briefly helped me forget the follow up I would be doing this week after 71 meetings plus 33 extra piles of notes, but maybe I won’t talk about cannibals for just a day or two.