Frankfurt Book Fair preview

It's October and that can mean only one thing in the publishing world: Frankfurt....
October 1, 1999

It’s October and that can mean only one thing in the publishing world: Frankfurt.

From October 13 to 18, over 1,300 kids publishers from around the globe are expected to descend on this German city to exhibit their wares at the 51st International Frankfurt Book Fair.

For North American kids pubcos attending, their objectives at Frankfurt will be many. In addition to talking shop with foreign retailers and distributors, Frankfurt also gives them the chance to sell foreign reprint rights to their front- and back-list books, as well as to preview their spring 2000 titles.

A poll of U.S. companies exhibiting at this year’s edition of the fair reveals that most will be pitching titles that have an entertainment tie-in or are already part of an established publishing franchise.

One book that falls into the former category is Hyperion Children’s Books’ Cheetah Girls, a new series for middle-grade girl readers written by Essence magazine editor Deborah Gregory. The collection depicts the lives of a group of young African-American women. The television rights to the series have been optioned by the Disney Channel, which is presently shopping for a prodco to bring it to TV. Hyperion, a division of Disney Publishing Worldwide, will also be taking Gordon Korman’s gross-out book Nose Pickers from Outer Space to this year’s Fair. Targeted at male middle-grade readers, Nose Pickers has also been optioned by the Disney Channel. Both Cheetah and Nosepickers were published State-side this fall. As for books unaffiliated with TV, Rosen says she will also be pushing a new title from kids publishing institution Rosemary Wells called Emily’s First 100 Days of School, which Hyperion plans to release in spring 2000.

‘This year we’ve been doing a lot of media-based titles, and we’re also trying to publish titles that other media will want to repurpose from us. Our motto is, if it’s on TV, we publish it,’ says Rosen.

It’s a strategy that makes the most sense, according to Carol Roder, VP of international licensing at Simon & Schuster’s Children’s Publishing Division, especially considering the time of year in which the Frankfurt Fair falls. Like the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, which hits in spring, Frankfurt follows soon after a MIP-TV market, ‘so the foreign publishing divisions of multimedia corporations are more likely to be on the look-out for titles that have media tie-ins,’ says Roder. Maggie and the Ferocious Beast: The Big Scare, by Betty and Mickey Paraskevas, is one such title Roder is banking will catch the eye of foreign pubcos. The picture book is currently being turned into an animated TV show by Canadian prodco Nelvana. The series has already been purchased by kids cabler and S&S sister company Nickelodeon. Roder will also be pitching publishers on the second title in the Maggie series, called Maggie and the Ferocious Beast: The Big Carrot, which S&S plans to release in the U.S. in spring 2000.

For its part, Scholastic Publishing won’t be previewing any of its spring titles at this year’s Fair. Instead, its focus will be on growing its foreign reprint rights business, which currently accounts for roughly 2% of Scholastic’s overall revenues.

Generally, ‘we use Frankfurt as the place to catch up and try to sell foreign publishers on the titles that we introduced at Bologna in the spring,’ says Peggy Intrator, VP and director of foreign rights at Scholastic Publishing. Some of the titles Scholastic will be pushing at Frankfurt include the first two books in Everworld, Animorphs author K.A. Applegate’s latest sci-fi series for teens, which hit stores in North America in September; the million copy-selling Captain Underpants series by author/illustrator Dav Pilkey; and new titles based on the Clifford publishing property, which Scholastic’s production arm, Scholastic Entertainment, is currently developing into a TV show.

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