Archive for the ‘Trade Fairs’ Category
Coming down and calming down from two hectic days at the London Book Fair, I’m sitting in our Harlech office looking out at the waves and the wind and the sunshine, and contemplating the immense power of books.
There’s no doubt the publishing world is in turmoil, with fewer people buying books, ebooks taking an ever larger slice of the pie, bookshops closing every week and a general air of uncertainty hanging over everything. This of course adds to the excitement, and there is, as always in publishing, this sense of ambiguity — are we in the right business? Should we be looking forward? Or over our shoulders?
Two companies expressed an interest, however veiled, in acquiring fotoLibra. Of course there’s a world of difference between acquiring and buying, but it’s interesting to see that some firms are discreetly expanding, and not necessarily in their core disciplines. I should add that these are the first signals of this type we’ve seen in nine years. Flattering, I guess.
To get an indication of the measure of hope in the business, I posed a theoretical question: “If you personally had fifty thousand to invest, would you put it in a firm making printing machinery or a firm making screens?” No one answered directly. Everyone nodded slowly.
There is a rearguard action. At the fair advertising king Maurice Saatchi launched his Books Are My Bag campaign, claimed to be the biggest ever promotion of bookshops. Who doesn’t love a bookshop? But we’re all buying online, and condemning them to a slow, lingering death. Asked to name my favourite bookshop, I hesitated — there used to be two in Crouch End, now there are none.
It’s not because everyone is buying ebooks. An ebook is still a book; it’s just presented differently. And the only ebooks that are selling are fiction. Illustrated ebooks, as we have found out to our cost, are hard to shift. Heritage Ebooks, which we launched with great hope and wonderful images from fotoLibra photographers, has struggled to find a market. We did a deal with The Folly Fellowship, an organisation concerned with the history and preservation of this curious aspect of Britain’s architectural heritage, to give their members a thumping great discount on the purchase of any of our forty Follies of England ebook titles. How many folly enthusiasts took up the offer? None. Not one. Zilch. That is disheartening.
But The Guardian tells me they’re now doing a feature on our Heritage Ebooks, illustrating ten of our ebook covers. That would be nice. I’ll believe it when I see it. BREAKING NEWS: They’re not doing it. Our ebook covers are Portrait format, and they said they needed Landscape. The covers have lettering on them — the book titles, actually — and they wanted them without lettering. It turns out what they really wanted was ten free photographs of follies.
Despite all this doom and gloom, the London Book Fair was humming. Large companies had dozens of tables, each one with four people talking intently with heads bowed. Business was being done. Smaller firms were concentrating just as hard. The only oases of quiet were to be found in the Arab quarter: huge, lavish, glittering, empty national stands, as depopulated as the deserts.
I captioned this piece The Power Of The Word. The word has more power to stimulate the imagination than the image, I regret to admit. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “People remember 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, and 50% of what they see and hear.” But we’re not told what sort of people they asked. These aren’t book people.
Book people feed on words. I’ll give you an example. I’ve known my old pal Mike for over forty years. We haven’t been in touch a lot since he left publishing, but we hooked up last Christmas and resumed normal service. For a Significant Birthday he was planning a tour of Japan. His highlight was going to be queuing outside a bookshop to be the first to buy Haruki Murakami’s new novel. That was, to borrow a phrase from Gilbert Harding, his Sole Purpose of Visit. What power can there be in words to drag a foreigner halfway around the world — literally! — to join (or in Mike’s case, form) a queue outside a Japanese bookshop? I wish I had readers like that. He’s still out there, by the way, and blogging about it as he travels around the country. You can read his adventures here. Oh — and he left book publishing to become a film-maker. Images for words.
So this week was the book fair. fotoLibra’s major source of income is from book publishers. Next week will be the picture buyers’ fair, fotoFringe in King’s Cross. It will be a busy week for us. And there will be some interesting NEWS from fotoLibra.
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What can be more conducive to reverie than a good meal, a comfortable seat and a long smooth train journey?
Last Saturday I travelled from Frankfurt am Main to London, changing at Brussels, on the way back from the Frankfurt Book Fair — my 36th. It was a good fair, with plenty of top-level discussions about image licensing and clearances, price agreements and long-term contracts.
It’s been a rough old time in the picture library business but we’re hanging on in there and I am convinced I can see a silver lining here or there amongst the heavy cloud cover. A week at the Buchmesse always boosts my confidence.
There was a lot to think about on the way home. My mind ranged through meetings, proposals, promises, developments, the way forward, new ideas and so on until I fell into a light doze.
Earlier there had been a slight altercation between a Canadian and a German Muslim over seat allocation, and I fell to pondering on national stereotypes. Meanwhile my reading matter for the journey was the account books of C. F. Martin, luthier, based in Nazareth, Pennsylvania in the nineteenth century, not a page-turning thriller by most standards.*
So when I awoke there were three fresh ideas to make me smile.
Firstly, how about a series of picture books on national stereotypes? And before we all rush around tut-tutting and waving our hands in the air at such racism, it’s undeniable that a shared educational experience will produce a population that generally moves in the same direction and accepts the same discomforts. For example, most Americans are keener on owning guns than most Brits. Germans are generally more efficient than Greeks. Italians design prettier cars than the Welsh. And many of these attitudes could be illustrated by photographs — fotoLibra photographs, of course.
I suddenly remembered the pre-war Punch cartoonist Pont, and his series on The British Character. Wonderful, one-frame situation comedies, with captions such as
- Fondness for cricket
- Importance of being athletic
- Absence of enthusiasm for answering letters
- Preference for driving on the crown of the road
- Love of travelling alone
- A tendency to be hearty
- A fondness of anything French
- A tendency to learn the piano when young
You can imagine his drawings. So in my spare time I thought I’d rattle off a few observations on the national characteristics of the English, the Americans, the Spanish, the French, the Germans, the Italians and any other nation where I’ve had some experience of the inhabitants, each illustrated by a suitable fotoLibra image. If you have any suggestions for captions — and for images — please let me know. I’m looking for an affectionate and gently ironic tone. But I’m happy to offend, if it’s funny enough.
Then I contemplated Herr Martin, German immigrant to New York in 1834 and his subsequent move to Nazareth, PA, where the company he founded still makes fabulous and sought-after guitars. I discovered that Nazareth was a suburb of Bethlehem, PA and I thought that would have made Mary and Joseph’s life a little easier, having to travel 10 miles instead of 110. But there’s a Nasareth and a Bethlehem in Wales, as well — and they’re the same distance apart as the original Nazareth in Judea and Bethlehem.
There we are! How about a pilgrimage across three continents? A description of three journeys from Nazareth to Bethlehem — one in Israel / Palestine, one in Wales, one in the USA. It would be a road trip, maybe even one short and two long walks, discovering the sights to be seen and the wonders to be shared in three such different environments, all with a common heritage. TV series? Book? Magazine article? I have yet to decide. But an agreeable concept.
And then Mr Martin and his lovely guitars. I am fortunate enough to own one, a 1972 D-35 Dreadnought acoustic, named for the British battleships of the early twentieth century. When I’m away from it, my fingertips get soft and itchy, and it’s not really practical to lug it around. Why couldn’t I rent one while I was in Frankfurt so I could have a quick strum before bedtime?
Eleven years ago I spent three weeks in George, South Africa, rocking on my heels. On the second day, fearing I might go stir crazy, I found a music shop and asked the owner if he would consider renting me a guitar for three weeks. He looked at me as if I was black. Then someone renting my house in Wales asked if there was a local shop which could rent him a guitar for two weeks. There isn’t.
Why not? Don’t be silly, I told myself, there will be a giant corporation which has this sewn up. I just haven’t heard of it yet. RENT-AN-AX dot com probably has depots scattered across the world where tired businesspeople can have a Strat delivered to their hotel room when they check in. Blindingly obvious. Ah well.
I got back home, and looked up rentanax.com. No such website. So I registered it. I am now the proud owner of rentanax.com.
Now what do I do? Anyone want to start a guitar rental company?
Me, I’ve got a picture library to run.
*Fascinating nonetheless: C F Martin & His Guitars: 1796—1873, by Philip F Gura, Centerstream Publishing, Anaheim Hills 2012.
Our latest analytics tell me that 9,328 unique people visited the fotoLibra Pro Blog in the last month and it had 19,999 pageviews. Damn. Only one to go.
Today I want to tell you about fotoFringe 2012. Now you’re all unique, and you’re all lovely — but I don’t actually know who many of you are. I inform fotoLibra buyers and sellers when I’ve posted a new blog, as well as most people I know. My high-flying niece Shân always obliges with an out-of-office auto-reply — “I am out of the office on business in the US / Switzerland / Australia / Chile / Singapore (insert exotic location here) and will only have limited access to e-mails.”
67.76% of you are from the UK, 9.42% from the USA, 22.82% from elsewhere. What I would have expected. I don’t know if these visiting figures are good or bad, or what to compare them to.
But from the comments that are made, most respondees are photographers.
So this blog posting isn’t for you.
This one is for that rara avis, the professional picture buyer.
Now because we are so cripplingly shy at fotoLibra, we never get out of the office. We seldom dare to speak in the office either, we just email each other. Jacqui never even leaves her eyrie in Snowdonia. So we are terrified of picture buyers and very nervous about meeting them. But we want to and we need to, because the ones that we do meet are all so sweet and kind to us, not frightening at all. It’s just that … well, have you ever tried cold calling? Have you ever received an unwanted telephone call? It is the most disheartening, dispiriting experience for both sides. Even if the caller is offering something the answerer may want, now is almost always not the right time. Today I’m sitting here in Harlech, baking in sunshine, and the phone has rung three times in the past 30 minutes. I am alone in the office, and because of the vagaries of Welsh telephony the phone is four rooms away from my computer. I can choose to be with one or the other; not both. Three times I have jumped up to answer the phone; three times a bland recorded voice says “Our records show you may be owed thousands from Personal Protection Payments.” There’s not even anyone to shout at. So I rant to a keyboard which dutifully records my raging fingers.
Get to the point, Headley. We do have a chance to meet professional picture buyers, and it’s called fotoFringe. The first event was last year. We gulped, we set up our trestle table (this is not major league stuff) and we were astonished and delighted by the picture editors, researchers and buyers we met and by the number of them! I calculated we made 58 good contacts during the day. It was the best exhibition we’ve ever done.
Until April 26th this year, of course, when fotoFringe 2012 takes place at King’s Place in King’s Cross, London. It’s bigger than last year. We hope it will be even better, although it’s hard to see how it can be bettered.
We will be able to look picture researchers in the eye (we hope), shake their hands, and show them the wondrous imagery our talented members have assembled. We can tell them about Picture Calls. We can tell them about advanceImages. We can show off our extremely user-friendly new website (we keep hoping).
Maybe we’ll make 59 good contacts. So if you are a picture editor, or researcher, or buyer, we hope you’ll find time to come and see us at fotoFringe. If we’re hiding under our table in terror, there are 89 other picture libraries to meet there. Entry is free; all you have to do is register here. The show is only for professional picture users, so photographers aren’t allowed — the fotoFringe organisers, led by the redoubtable and lovely Flora Smith, say:
“This is a privately created and managed networking event for professional picture users and picture libraries, conceived, created and managed by TopFoto as fotofringe London.
“It is not a forum where we are seeking new contributors. This private one day only event is not open to photographers, service providers, nor the general public.”
Sorry about that. But you can email us at fotoLibra at any time, or ideally participate by commenting on the blog. After all, 19,999 pageviews can’t be ignored.
Oh — but by reading this, YOU must have personally taken it up to 20,000 pageviews. Thank you very, very much!
There was no BAPLA Picture Buyers’ Fair this year. The lovely and redoubtable Flora Smith of Topfoto decided to do something about it.
With the help of Will Carleton of Photo Archive News she created fotoFringe. 55 picture libraries (curiously no Getty, Corbis or Alamy) piled into the plush King’s Place development on a highly gentrified canal basin at King’s Cross and prepared to tout their wares to the picture editors and researchers they hoped would attend.
And attend they did. I can’t speak for other picture libraries, but at the show yesterday we had 58 — count them, 58 — fruitful meetings. (We would have had more had not at least three photographers managed to evade the armed guards and got to chew the fat over a leisurely few hours with us while we agonisingly watched trains of real live picture buyers, weighed down with credit cards and price agreements burning holes in their handbags, steaming past us. There’s a time and a place etc etc and You Know Who You Are. No — we love you really. It’s just that we went there geared up to talk to picture buyers, not sellers.)
I can speak for other picture libraries, actually. There wasn’t a single voice of dissent. Everyone had a great day. It wasn’t expensive (except for all the bars of chocolate we handed out to picture buyers) and in terms of cost per head per meeting it was perhaps the most successful expo fotoLibra has ever attended.
Let’s do it again!
One interesting point (to me) is that 14 of our visitors had come to a trade show without bringing any business cards with them. Is it just me, or does that seem odd?
If you want to see more (and considerably better) images and read more about fotoFringe, here’s a link to Photo Archive News’s report for May 12. You can see fotoLibra’s stand and Yvonne’s and my cheery faces in the fourth image down.
Meanwhile my only quibble was that as we were in the second wave of bookings for the show along with 18 other picture libraries, our black felt-covered fotoLibra trestle table was placed below water level in the windowless basement. It was interesting to note people’s reactions to the space: the under 25s said “This looks like an exam room;” the 25 to 60s said “This looks like a gymnasium;” and the over 60s said “This looks like a morgue.” Ah, the preoccupations of age.
Here’s the stand when we set it up:
and here’s the rest of the room (or The Morgue, as my age group called it).
It really was a cheerful, positive, feelgood sort of event. Let’s hope this leads to more sales for us all.
4 Corners, Alamy, Arcaid, Arenapal, BAPLA, Bridgeman, Camera Press, Corbis, Country Life, fotoFringe, fotoLibra, Getty, Heritage Images, Image Source, John Walmsley Education, marketing photographs, Mary Evans, Mirrorpix, Nature Picture Library, Photo Archive News, photography, Photoshot, picture library, Picture Research Association, picture sales, Robert Harding, Ronald Grant Archive, selling photographs, Specialist Stock, Splash, stock agency, Topfoto, View, WENN, Writer Pictures
When fotoLibra was just an ickle bitty new picture library we scraped all our pennies together and took a stand at the BAPLA Picture Buyers’ Fair. We thought it crucial that we should hang out our faces in public, and meet all those radiant people who would (we were convinced) shortly be buying shedloads of photographs from our wonderful members.
It hasn’t quite worked out like that, although we haven’t done too badly. We’re nearing half a million images online, which although it doesn’t yet match the behemoths of Getty, Alamy, Corbis and the microstock rabble, is still a respectable amount of superb images.
So it was with sadness that we learned that BAPLA would not be holding a Picture Buyers’ Fair this year.
Full marks therefore to the lovely Flora Smith of Topfoto who reasoned “If they’re not going to do it, then we will”. She hired a room and some trestle tables, called the event fotoFringe and invited a few friendly picture libraries to exhibit with her. “What a great idea,” I thought, and emailed Flora to say “Count us in!”
It was by invitation only, and she’d filled it already. 21 picture libraries, plus media partner Photo Archive News, will be exhibiting at fotoFringe — but not fotoLibra. We’re on the waiting list for a table, but we’re not holding our breath. Of course we’ll be there in person(s) (Flora said we could come), prowling round the room like hyenas and jackals, but we won’t be sitting at the top table.
Sleepless nights haven’t resolved the question of why Flora and Will Carleton of Photo Archive News didn’t think of us when choosing 20 picture libraries to exhibit with them (is it my tendency to dribble? my flatulence? my general nastiness?) but there we go. We will just sit on the sidelines and wait.
fotoLibra strongly supports the idea of fotoFringe, and hopes that every picture researcher worth her salt will attend, despite the formal absence of fotoLibra, Getty, Alamy and Corbis. There’s a website for the event at http://www.fotofringelondon.com, and it takes place on May 11th at the spiffy new Kings Place venue just north of King’s Cross. See you there!
One thing the fotoFringe website doesn’t do is link through to the exhibiting agencies’ websites so you can see what they offer, so as a service to picture buyers I thought fotoLibra could contribute that here.
And rather than list the libraries conventionally in alphabetical order, I’ve listed them in the order they appear on Alexa, the website ranking index standard, to see how close they get to Google, Facebook and Youtube. The lower the number, the more people visit the site.
Although fotoLibra isn’t exhibiting at fotoFringe, it would be invidious to leave my own company out of any listing. So here we go:
|Photo Archive News||Trade News||824,236|
|Nature Picture Library||Nature||940,390|
|Picture Research Association||Industry Body||2,080,000|
|Ronald Grant Archive||Cinema||8,012,000|
|John Walmsley Education||Education||22,800,000|
|Writer Pictures||Authors||no data|
I’m booking myself appointments at the Frankfurt Book Fair. I don’t bother with my old pals, because I’ll run into them anyway. I will check with the contacts I already have to see if they’ve got a few spare minutes so we can catch up.
But what I’ll concentrate on is the publishers we don’t already have relationships with; in other words, I’m cold calling.
And a more fatiguing, depressive, unwelcoming task is hard to imagine. There must be some, I suppose.
At least I’m not getting rejected on the phone. I’m emailing these people, and I’m selecting publishers who specialise in illustrated books and who therefore presumably need a good supply of images.
THEN I get rejected. No comprende.
Of course, I get a slew of appointments out of it. Most people are polite and happy to fix a meeting. That’s great. Many simply don’t respond. Fair enough. Some reply and they’re all booked up. Fair enough. Some reply saying they’re the wrong person. Fair enough.
But I am constantly surprised by the steady minority of business people who are shocked and appalled by an unsolicited approach. How dare I contact such important people and suggest they soil their hands by shaking mine? What possible reason would a publisher of illustrated books have for meeting someone from a picture library? What temerity!
These aren’t casual rejections. They’ve often done a little bit of research so they can mention a competitor, or refer to a field in which we have little expertise (increasingly rare nowadays). There is a basic intent to wound.
I don’t know if it makes us less important and them more so. It can’t be that, because it doesn’t work.
Human nature I guess, hitting blindly out at someone unknown, on a par with my impotent raging at voicemail and bank security questions.
Anyone who’s read more than two or three of my posts will know what I think of the microstock system. There always has to be a loser, and in the case of microstock the loser is the creator, the artist — that is to say, the photographer. But as a responsible company we have to evaluate the business model and see if it could work for us. It could only work if the photographers knew EXACTLY what they were letting themselves in for. fotoLibra would have been a lot richer a lot quicker if we’d promised untold riches to our members from day one. And who knows, maybe that’s the right way to untold riches, riches beyond the dreams of aviaries, as Jimmy Edwards memorably said.
At the London Book Fair I stopped by a stand where they were displaying lots of illustrated books. The conversation went something like this:
“Hello, I’m from fotoLibra, we’ve got hundreds of thousands of just the images you need for your books.”
“Well, it rather depends on the usage. You see …”
“What cheapest price?”
“Ah, if you buy lots of images I’m sure we can offer a most attractive deal …”
“You tell cheapest price!”
A figure was mentioned. A laugh was heard.
“You see dat book?” An encyclopaedia was indicated. “Dat book, I buy all picture in dat book ten pound. Not one, all picture in book.”
WHAT I SAID
“Oh, well done you. Jolly good show! Very clever.”
WHAT I SHOULD HAVE SAID
“Well, you certainly get what you pay for, don’t you? I’ve never seen such unadulterated, badly printed crap. You should be prosecuted for first degree murder to trees. And if that’s the care and attention you devote to your images, I hate to think where the text originated, or what awful, erroneous message it’s getting across.”
But I’m British.
So I didn’t.
This year’s Canadian Book Summit takes place on June 19 and the theme is “Giving It Away: Books, Business, and the Culture of Free.”
It costs $145 to attend.
That’s the answer!
Instead of trying to sell images to publishers, we should charge for telling them how to get free images.
The Spring Fair is an annual event held in Birmingham’s NEC. It describes itself as “the ultimate launch platform for new products and trends, bringing the world’s brands and buyers together.”
Search for Spring Fair on Wikipedia however, and you only get the Johns Hopkins Spring Fair, which attracts some 25,000 visitors to a provincial American university.
Birmingham’s Spring Fair is massive, with thousands of exhibitors and hundreds of thousands of visitors, yet it doesn’t rate a ripple on the internet. Its own web site is a desperate selling tool, bereft of any real information, simply data. How old is it? Who runs it? How long has it been going? Is it a direct descendant of those mediaeval Guild fairs? What’s it really for?
I went once, and it was huge and unfocussed. Companies selling dolls jostled with calendar publishers, fabric samples, wedding cakes, lawnmowers, accountancy firms, potters, balloons, jam, jewellery (this year carbon neutral, so no diamonds then), greetings cards and anything else you can think of.
Perhaps it’s an exhibition for trades that don’t have their own exhibitions?
Some greetings card manufacturers use photographs. We found out who they were. We telephoned them in advance. We created lightboxes and lightboxes of images we thought might appeal to them. We sent them to them. We called them again. We emailed to arrange meetings.
Not a twitter of interest. Yet fotoLibra sells well, and repeatedly, to a few select greetings card companies. But not to all of them.
So tomorrow two of us are going to the Spring Fair with a hit list of 25 greetings card companies. And we shall lay waste among them.
If only we knew what the Spring Fair really meant.