Thursday, October 16, 2008

“By means of beauty, beautiful things become beautiful.” --Phaedo

Frankfurter Buchmesse Day 2

It was a great day today. Traffic was up at the show. There was a lot of interest in our books from passers-by. Our fiction and health/cooking titles seem to draw the most attention. We had several requests for review copies.

I did not have as many appointments today which gave me a lot of quality time to think—time not often found in the office or at home. I brainstormed some acquisition strategies and backlist development ideas. I thought about our identity, our core categories, and our distinctives. I made some observations about our competitors, large and small, as well as our International counterparts, particularly from the UK (because I can read their titles). I am more encouraged than ever about our place at the world publishing table and the opportunities to strengthen our position as a leading American independent publisher.

I find myself drawn to publishers who carry a sense of style and identity through every aspect of their presence—their titles, their design, their packaging, their catalog, their exhibit, their people, their dress code, etc. Are you familiar with Phaidon Press? I had not heard of them before they show. They are "the world’s leading publisher of books on the visual arts, with offices in London, Paris, Berlin, Barcelona, Milan, New York and Tokyo, and distributors worldwide." Their books are distributed in the U.S. through Hachette but they are privately owned by Richard Schlagman.

I first noticed them because of the smart display of their books. Their books were displayed on tables with elevated easels that provide great face out placement at eye level, with waist high table tops perfect for flipping through and experiencing the books—a perfect combination of exhibition and function. The next thing I noticed was that their booth was packed full of browsers at every table. Every one of their books had great artistic design and production value. I also noticed that they brand their name on the lower left corner of the front cover of all their books—some books are more subtle than others, but it is there in every case, and somehow it doesn't violate the composition or artistic integrity of the design. They are clearly establishing a brand. The catalog is the size of a standard 200-page paperback book with a minimalist cover printed on recycled cover stock. The inside is printed in four color with 3-D photos of every book. Their booth has a funky meeting space in the center with artsy, bookish looking, busy people coming and going.
The next thing I noticed was how big the exhibit was, the number of books on display, the girth of the catalog, and the number of employees. It is one thing carry a sense of style to a book, a series, even an imprint or boutique publisher, but the scale of it all, perfectly executed on every level was truly inspiring. I attribute it to a clear vision to be "the world's leading publisher of books on the visual arts" and and focused mission "to publish fine art books with high production and design standards." The company is named after Socrates’ pupil Phaed who spoke on the immortality of the soul and is credited with saying, “By means of beauty, beautiful things become beautiful.”

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