October 23rd, 2023

The Frankfurt Book Fair 2023 in times of war and artificial intelligence

The 75th edition of the Frankfurt Book Fair took place from October 17th to October 22nd 2023 and the Pontas Agency attended it for the 32nd time in a row. During this edition, war and injustice were mentioned in every meeting, as everyone seemed very affected by what was happening in Palestine and Israel those days, besides the still ongoing terrible wars in Ukraine, Ethiopia and other places around the world often forgotten by the Western media. The Pontas Agency had two tables at the Agent’s Center, where, according to the fair, more than 15.000 people passed through during the four days, where Anna Soler-Pont, Carla Briner and Carolina Martínez had back to back meetings with as many editors, publishers, producers, and literary and film scouts as possible.








During this edition, Artificial Intelligence was a trend topic and many panels and talks about it took place. On October 19th, Anna Soler-Pont participated in a panel to analyse “The State of Artificial Intelligence in Publishing Today” together with Nadim Sadek, CEO and co-founder of Shimmr, an AI-powered marketing platform that uses AI to help books find their readers; and Christoph Bläsi, a professor of book studies at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. Moderated by AI British expert Thomas Cox and organised by Publishers Perspectives at the Congress Center within the fairgrounds, the panel was a huge success and generated an interesting debate.







From an article on Publishers Weekly: "Pontas Literary & Film Agency literary agent and founder Anna Soler-Pont considered the real-world implications for authors and literary agents, noting that some of her clients were “very worried” about AI. But she said that she feels positive about it, pointing out that, 30 years ago, people were afraid of the technology that we now consider to be routine.

In terms of guardrails, Soler-Pont said that the rise of AI has prompted new contract clauses, particularly concerning audio and translation (for example, translation of a work of art must be done by a human). She added that she is not inclined to sell audio rights unless the audiobook will be recorded by a human voice, rather than a synthetic one.

Soler-Pont acknowledged feeling caught between wanting to protect art and wanting to promote technology, conceding that some big companies were “willing to generate AI novels with pen names” and that those titles might well find audiences. But she also noted that AI, and our perceptions of it, are ever-evolving: although her authors may not want audiobooks or AI translations of their works now, in the future, they may change their minds. Meanwhile, AI has already introduced one new job, she noted: correcting AI translations.”








Among many great conversations, it was great to share enthusiasm about These Tears End In Letters, the forthcoming debut novel by Cameroonian author Musih Tedji Xaviere, with American editor Kendall Storey from Catapult (below - left); and about Persephone, the forthcoming debut novel by French author Benjamin Carteret, with French editors Danaé Tourrand and Lisa Labbe from Charleston, in the picture on the right with Carla Briner (middle).









Although they are smiling in the photo, it was emotional to experience the very last Frankfurt meeting with German editor Linda Walz (in the photo below on the left, with Anna Soler-Pont), who is retiring at the end of 2023. Linda acquired Jonas Jonasson’s The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared from the Pontas Agency for C. Bertelsmann back in 2010 and the book has sold over 4.5 million copies in German so far. It was a good deal for everyone!

The emotion of this last meeting was witnessed by WME Hollywood agents Anna DeRoy and Sanjana Seelam, in the photo below with Carolina Martínez, on the right.









The Frankfurt Book Fair is an event that the Pontas Agency has never missed and certainly never will!