My FBF John Hudson

The Austen Maestro: John’s former mode of transport to FBF

My Frankfurt Book Fair John Hudson

I first went to the Frankfurt in Book Fair in 1981. I’ve only missed one since then—in 2003, when I was “between jobs”, as they say.

I prefer going with a smaller company. My first visit was with Buter- worth, and I soon learned that going as a large crew brings a lot of silly politics. The environment with just a few of you is nicer.

I used to drive to Frankfurt. I would pack the boot of my Austin Maestro with books, then take the ferry across the Channel or to the Hook of Holland and drive down from there. More recently I’ve gone by train and flown back—it’s a relaxing way to travel before the mael- strom of the fair.

People say the fair is less frenetic than it used to be. But to my mind it’s the same. The people you see have changed, though—there are fewer booksellers and more service suppliers.

It’s hard to say exactly how much business we transact as a direct result of the fair. But it’s always been more about the accumulation of small deals and the conversations that start and lead somewhere further down the line.

It’s ironic that we go all the way to Germany and end up talking to Brits. But to see them all, in so many parts of the country, would take days and endless travel. It’s so much easier to see them under one roof.

People often feel they’re being unproductive if every meeting slot isn’t filled, but it’s not always a bad thing. Leave time to look around and have those chance meetings. Some people think of Frankfurt as a pure rights fair now. But we still get orders from booksellers and talk to our sales reps and authors. There are so many different reasons for going.

I used to go to a tiny little jazz bar in Frankfurt every year. I met my future wife there and it was a lovely escape from the fair. It was turned into a Turkish restaurant a few years ago—I still miss it.

There are lots of nice places around Frankfurt that can take you away from the frenetic fair. Wiesbaden is only a short train ride away. A walk by the river is nice too.

My top tip: do your follow-up. You leave Frankfurt with a bag full of notes and promises, and it’s easy to let all that work come undone when you’re back in the office. I always set aside a day to follow up with everyone, even if it’s just a nice-to-see-you note. I read some- where that only 30% of meetings at trade fairs are ever followed up— so even if you can make it 50%, you’re still doing beter than most.


The city of Wiesbaden above and left, located just a short train ride away from the Frankfurt frenzy, comes recommended by John

WORDS Tom Holman 12th October 2017 Head of publishing, Historic England

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