What comes after Frankfurt? Paris!
04 October, 2019
What comes after Frankfurt? Paris!
The year following the appearance as guest of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair is known as a difficult one. What are the strategies of Georgian publishers for 2019?
“Yes, we have been warned”, says Gvantsa Jobava – not only in her function as editor at the publishing house Intelekti but also as head of the association of all Georgian publishers. “Even if our presence has been a huge success, the spotlight moves on to another country.” 

Gvantsa Jobava is
head of international relations and editor at the publishing house Intelekti.

Out of the spotlight

Norway will be the guest of honour in 2019, the centre of attention, when the Book Fair starts on October 16th. What will Georgian publishing houses do so that their authors do not have to walk in the shade in Frankfurt this year? Jobava says that her publishing house profited enormously during the guest of honour preparations that lasted for more than five years. So when they go to Frankfurt this year, their catalogue will contain not only their best books but they will also have some sample translations ready, so that the buyers of rights get a good impression of what they will get. “This is one thing we really learned during the workshops with professionals from Frankfurt when we prepared the guest of honour project”, she says.

Georgia entered the international market only 25 yeas ago

The publishing house Jobava works for is one of the three big ones in Georgia. In the beginning “Intelekti” published above all schoolbooks, novels came later. “Our focus at international book fairs was on buying rights, not selling them”, she explains and recalls that Georgia entered the international book market only 25 years ago, after the fall of the Iron Curtain, so there was a lot for us to catch up on.”

This was different for Tina Mamulashvili, co-founder of Sulakauri Publishing. She started 20 years ago as well: “You can’t imagine! There was nothing – literally: no efficient printing houses, no one capable of doing a layout, nothing. We started in 1999 from zero and until after the year 2000 we had to work without electricity every other day.”

Paris calling!

What is different for Mamulashvili is that her company published novels as well right from the start. She herself went for the first time to the Frankfurt Book Fair as early as 1998 and quickly picked up how to handle international demands. “But it was always hard to do business. Most of the time I had to describe first where Georgia was and explain that we had our own language”, she recalls. 

Tina Mamulashvili co-founded Sulakauri Publishing in 1998.

In 2007 she took the initiative and made a program for the development of Georgian literature and publishing. She organised the first coordinated appearance at the Frankfurt Book Fair. “But not only visibility but translation as well was the key for a small country like Georgia”, the experienced publisher explains. For Mamulashvili not only the appearance as guest of honour in Frankfurt as early as 2007 was a goal, as she says. She always hoped for further invitations to other book fairs. And Georgia was successful. They have been invited to Paris for 2022 or 2023.

Where is Georgia again?

None of the publishers understands why, after this success, the Ministry of Education and Culture decided to merge two cultural institutions into one. “Never change a winning team”, as Mamulashvili puts it. But she points out as well that Georgian publishers have learned a lot and are now capable of overcoming such a setback. In Frankfurt her publishing house will already focus on French publishers this year. “And most certainly we will not have to explain to people where or what Georgia is.”

By: Valérie Wacker

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