Goes to Frankfurt Am Main


I still remember the moment when I was called by Ibu Kartini Nurdin in the end of Ramadhan 2014 (23 July 2014). She informed that I was selected as one of participants in Workshop for Publisher “International Marketing” held by Goethe Institut accompanying with IKAPI. Honestly, I want to say that it is a great honor for me as “a small independent publisher”.

Actually, I found Gre Publishing accidentally in 2010 after my Graduation from Faculty of Philosophy, Gadjah Mada University. I ever left this publishing because I was hired by Graduate School Gadjah Mada University to be a web editor. After working a year, I decided to come back managing Gre Publishing not because Gadjah Mada University stopped my contract, but at that time I was taking English Course that made me not able to work bounded by the strick working hours.


Until the workshop started, I just think that Gre Publishing was only a way for me to survive living in Yogyakarta, getting enough money to fulfill my needs and the course fee up to I get scholarship to continue my study in master degree. Of course, I have dream to sell my products internationally and to make English version for my books. I was so enthusiastic when I knew from google that some of my products collected by some prestigious govermental and university libraries in USA and Australia. While I still did know how to reach international market and how to promote my products effectively.

I came to Jakarta at the first period of worshop with fear and unconfident. I read the letter from mbak Dewi Noviami which contained the list of participants. I was thinking that could I discuss with the giant actors in publishing in Indonesia such as Gramedia, Mizan, Yayasan Obor Indonesia, Rosdakarya, Republika, Lontar and Noura? At that time I did know about the KPBA, Afterhours, and Zikrul Hakim, but from the first sight I could feel how intellegent they are.

One of my problem to come to Jakarta was about the lodging. I had called all of my friends who work in Jakarta. While, I did not get a good respon and made me dissapointed because they are my close friends. I was so very lucky when Mbak Novi informed that Goethe Institut provided hotel for all of participants coming from out of Jakarta.

Otherwise, a scarry condition that I imagined from Yogyakarta till the first time I arrived in Hotel Cemara necessarily lost when I was welcomed nicely by the Chief of Library of Goethe Institut, Goethe’s  officers, the other participants and also by the two kind fasilitators: Bu Kartini Nurdin and Mbak Dewi Noviami. After welcoming and remarks from the Director of Goethe Institut regional representative Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand, Mr. Heinrich Blömeke, the Chief of Library and Information of Goethe Institut, Mrs. Christel Mahnke, and Ibu Kartini Nurdin from IKAPI, we asked to get lunch at a Javenese Restaurant. It made the situation more warm and increasingly familiar.


Workshop Session 1

That three days workshop elaborated about the recent condition of publishing,  how to contest in international market, epublishing and self publishing phenomena, copyright, webseller platform in Indonesia, and a brief explanation about Frankfurt Book Fair. The participants learned from distinguish speakers; Sebastian Posth (publisher, consultant and entrepreneur in publishing industry since 2004 with a strong focus on ebooks, digital distribution and ebook retail), Nung Atasana (Director of Borobudur Agency, The publishers and literary agents especially had broad interests in something specific about Indonesia), Erlan Primansyah (the founder of Buqu, an Indonesia platform of digital publishing), and Mrs. Claudia Kaiser (The Vice President of Frankfurt Book Fair).

Most of the workshop content was quite new for me. In this report I can not cover all of materials that have been inspiring me. The first and the most important thing that i got during the workshop session 1 was about the effective promotion. Book publishing is not only about how to convert manuscript becoming a book and drop it at the bookstore. Our book will not be sold by the market if we do not promote by manykinds of media. Mr. Sebastian Posth have changed my view about promotion. Before, I think that promotion need a lot of money. While, Sebastian gave me some solutions to promote my products by cheap cost; using social media continuously and making a special blog for a certain book to give complete information about that book.

Actually, I conduct a different way in my publishing business. I give service for the writers who want to publish their books by self publishing. I get income from that service. The big problem for me, my costumers only have limited budget to publish their books. That’s way, Print on Demand becomes a solution. However, I am facing difficulties how to sell those POD books at the bookstore. Commonly, the distributor or the book stores ask the publisher 40-55% in profit sharing. In the other hand, the cost to print a book by POD is quite expensive. The price of POD books can not  compete with market price. I succed to help many writers to publish their books, but I failed to sell theirs book to wide readers. From the workshop, I got an englightenment that epub can be one of solutions to reach larger markets and also to outsmart the shipping cost when I get some orders from abroad.

Moreover, I honestly want to say that Frankfurt Book Fair is not familiar for me and Gre Publishing have no experience attending even one book fair in Indonesia. Firstly, I did not understand when Sebastian Posth talked about “selling and buying rights” in Frankfurt Book Fair. Following Sebastian’s and Claudia’s explanation finally I understood what publishers do in Frankfurt Book Fair specially for international publishers.

A challenge given by Sebastian in which each workshop participants must persuade all of audience to a certain book had made me learning much about effective and persuasive way to attract potential buyers to buy our copyright book. In some cases, we actually have a good book to sell, while if we made a mistake, even a small error, we will lose opportunity to get signature from our business partner.

One of serious discussions that I did with Sebastian Post was about the prospect of academic publishing because most of Gre Publishing’s books coming from academias (lecturer) and some of them are converted from academic dissertation at university. Sebastian recognized that academic publishing is facing many marketing problems not only about limited audiences but also the phenomena of open access. Actually, I was regret with Sebastian’s explanatioan about the current market of publishing academics, while at dinner session in Mr.  Blömeke’s I met with the Chief of Ikapi who is also the owner of Bumi Aksara, one of the leading publishing which is focusing in academic books. She motivated me to still concern in academic books.

The other issue risen up by Mr. Sebastian, Mrs. Claudia, and Mrs. Christel was about the copyright. In Europe and USA, this is a big issue getting much attention for publishers. We make sure who own the right for certain book not only about the script but also about the picture contained in certain book. From Sebastian, I got a new knowledge that it is not enough to mention the link in which we took some pictures for our books. We must send a message and ask for permition using those pictures in our books.

Workshop session 1 was closed at Gallery Cemara owned by Ibu Toety Heraty (a distinguish person in Indonesia specializing on philosophy, art, and culture) with Sharing Session VII. By the workshop participants Yudith (Gramedia) and I were elected to be a representative to talk about our 3 day experience in International Marketing Workshop. It was a unforgetable moment for me, sitting in front of the boss of leading publishers in Indonesia and also some famous writers Indonesia. In that moment, I delivered the inspiring writing life of Karl Marx, a Germany philosopher, who lived in a dirty small room and fulfilled his everyday need by in debt. Eventhought, he had a tragic life, after his death 1/3 of world population became his followers called Marxist and his book “Das Capital” read by everyone around the world until now. With Marx’s story, I want to say that the business of writing held by publisher not only about how to get much profit but also about how we contribute to human history through the literate (writing and reading) culture.

Workshop Session 2

In this one day workshop all of the participants were requested to do a kind of simulation selling certain books. We must prove why the book appropiate to translate and to sell internationally. It was a difficult task even our book rise up a popular topic or figure in Indonesia. We must pay high attention and consider what the international market wants. Each country has unique market. For this session, I only bring one book to simulate, “Gagasan dan Gerak Dakwah Natsir”. I realized that this book was not familiar for German market. However, at the simulation I had optimism that the book could be sold in Malaysian market.

The other interesting theme that we learned at this session was how to make appointments with foreign exhibitors who would participate at Frankfurt Book Fair 2014. Actually in Workshop Session 1, the speakers had explained it briefly. However, until the Workshop Session 2 began most participants of workshop only got few appointments, specially for me, no appoitment that I hold. Mrs. Claudia Kaiser motivated all of participants to contact as much as possible althought the Fair had been closer.

After Workshop 2, I had two big task to finish; making appoitments and registrating for Germany visa. As Mrs. Claudia advised, I sent request for appointments as many as I can and focused on academic publishers, Malaysian publishers, Australian publishers and American publishers.  Totally, i sent around 110 request appointments. For my visa, eventhought I must wait for 3 hours, there was no significant problem. The embassy officer talked that there was no problem with my applications and She gave me a retrieval letter to take my visa a week later.

Workshop Session III

Finally, some of participants, the fasilitators and I arrived at Frankfurt International Airport Sunday Morning October 5, 2014. The Fall season welcomed us with cool air. It was my first time to step my feet in Europe land. It was also my first experience going abroad. After taking break for 2 days, We attended  the last workshop before taking action and implementing all of strategies given by some excellent speakers on Workshop Session I and II.

I felt a little bit confident at that time because I had 6 appointments. If I compared with my friend from Gramedia and Mizan, the appointment number I held was not much as they got. While, as a newby at Frankfurt Book Fair I was happy with those 6 appoitments.

In this session, we met Mr. Sebastian Posth again. The venue was in Frankfurt Book Fair’s office. I was so surprised how Germany people give much attention for a fair. FBF committee has a huge building. It represents how serious they are to manage a book fair. Maybe that is one of reasons Frankfurt Book Fair until now still becoming the biggest book fair in the world.

Mr. Sebastian Posth was not talking much. He only reminded us to be confident and remembed us to not be confused at the Fair. He showed the map of Frankfurt Book Fair’s halls and how we can reach other halls effectively. Special for me, He gave advice to talk and met with Independent publishers that also participated at Frankfurt Book Fair 2014 for larging my perspective about “indie” and “self” publishing.

Frankfurt Book Fair 2014: Time to Show

Frankfurt Book Fair 2014 was opened by a long speech ceremony on the afternoon 7 October 2010. Mr. Claudia Kaiser had waned us in the end of Workshop Session III that the opening ceremony would be “boring”. However, I was so enthuastic to hear every single work that was deliverd by the speakers though the speakers (of course they were the prestigious person including the president of Frankfurt Book Fair, Major of Frankfurt, and some the important speakers from Finland)  used their own language (Germany and Finland).

What I had got during the workshop tested by 6 appointments that I held. Walking from Indonesian Boot at Hall 5.0 to the others Hall did not waste energy. Eventhough some of appoitments was in Hall 8, I enjoyed walking there and felt that was like a sport to warm my tropical body that was not used to interact with cool weather like Europe.

Result of Appointments

Meeting with the director of publishers or the marketing chief of publishers that I mentioned in Table 1 gave me a large perspective how the foreign publishers struggle with market, open source and digital era.

Table 1. List of Appointments

No Name Institution Venue
1 Yvonne,Wei-Han Chen National Taiwan University Press Hall 6.1 D33
2 Dennis Lloyd University Press of Florida USA Hall 8.0 M86
3 Leena Kaakinen Gaudeamus Helsinki University Press Finland Hall 5.0 A79
4 Ahmad Hussein Mdc Publishers Malaysia Hall 5.0 D35
5 Mick Gusinde-Duffy University of Georgia Press USA Hall 8.0 M86
6 Linda Cameron The University of Alberta Press Canada Hall 8.0 K83


For selling the copyright, I got a good respond from Mr. Ahmad Hussein from Mdc Publishers Malaysia who linked me with his collegue the publisher in Negeri Sembilan Malaysia. Negeri Sembilan is a part of Minangkabau Kingdom in West Sumatera and many its people are concerning about their identity as Minangkabau people. Meantime, many of books talked about Minangkabau. Until now, I am still waiting following conversation and sending email to Mr. Hussein.

For the other appointments, honestly speaking I did not agreement in selling my copyright. Their publishers have different concern not corresponding with my books. However, I could get valuable from them about the recent phenomena of university press and how they are contesting with private academic publisher such as Elvisier, Brill and Routledge.

From Leena Kaakinen (Finland), I learned much about the determination of English. Like my publisher, they only have books written in Finnish. If I want to buy the right, I facing difficulties to translate Finnish book to Indonesian book, because It is very hard to find someone having Finnish skills in Indonesia. At the same time, Indonesian or Bahasa is a strange language in Finland. English will be the best medium for publisher from Indonesia and Finland to breaking this language boundaries.

The other interesting thing I experienced during making conversation with Mrs. Linda Camerron from Canada. She showed me her catalogue through the Notebook and did not want to bring my printed catalogue. She just said, “I don’t want bring any stuff to Canada. Please send your catalogue to my email.” For me, it is a kind of high influence of digital media in contemporary era, but I forgot to ask deeper about how she is breaking the digital market for her ebooks.

Goes to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe University of Frankfurt Am Main

At the first time set foot in Frankfurt, I had a plan to visit Goethe University of Frankfurt Am Main. A graffiti at Bockenheimer Warte U Bahn station attracted my attention. It was an “advertisement of Goethe University” with a big picture of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

In the first time of Frankfurt Book Fair (8 October 2014), Indonesian boot was attainted by many people. From morning until afternoon, A lot of events was holding. The Vice Minister of Culture, Prof. Dr. Wiendu Nurhayati, brought a brochure of International Seminar about “Indonesian Images for International Public in Post Soeharto’s Era” venued at Goethe University, 9 October 2014.

Incidentally or not, in the morning of 8 October 2014, Pak Remon Agus and I was late to go to Messe by Bus provided by our Hotels. While we are confusing on  reading the map at U Bahn station near from our hotel, Industrieshof Station, a soft voice with Indonesian came from behind. It turn out, the owner of that voice is an Indonesian girl who is taking Master of Southeast Asian Studies at Goethe University. Her name is Nandha. She informed that his batch is the the third year of this program and how lucky of me, She also mentioned the direction how to go to Goethe University Campus.

The International Seminar about “Indonesian Images for International Public in Post Soeharto’s Era” was held by Department of Southeast Asian Studies Goethe University. Armed by a brief information from Nandha, I could find Bockenheim campus whilst the seminar was held in the Westend campus. I lost at Bockenheim campus. Almost an hour tried to find the office of Department of Southeast Asian Studies. Finally, I met Mr. Joachim Niesse, one of lecturerer at that Department who has room at 8th floor and his room filled by a lot of book about Indonesia. He also helped me how to go to Westend Campuss.

Book is a media for scholars or academia to bridge their works into public. The scholars will will be not considered if they don’t publishing anything. For me, university and publisher can not be separated. What I learn from International Seminar about Indonesia in Goethe University is about how the foreign scholars specially who concern on Southeast Asian Studies have been becoming important actors to promote and introduce Indonesia around the world. In the other hand, Indonesians can evaluate and mirror themselves based on what the foreign researchers found about Indonesia.

Actually I see that the foreign people who like and study Indonesia and the center of Indonesian studies in some countries are a potential market for Indonesian publishers which have not published their books into English. Because they are able to read and speak Indonesian. Indonesian books for them are not only a kind of reading, but a large source to understand and research Indonesia, and bring it into academic discourse that is benefial for development of knowledge.

Learn from Margin Kiri

In the free time during Frankfurt Book Fair, I had opportunity to meet with the Founder of Margin Kiri, the lucky Indonesia Independent publisher that was invitef by Frankfurt Book Fair committee to exhibit. Interestingly, that publisher is only operate by 2 persons. What learn from them is that managing publisher is not about how many pople you have in your publisher but how creative you are to publish “attractive book”.

Margin Kiri is  iniatiated by the people who feel something loose in Indonesian books. They are just the book lover and want to give alternative readings for Indonesians. These are important things for everyone who want to take a part in publishing business: loving book and having identity. Inspired from Margin Kiri, now I am thingking about my publisher identity. Maybee focusing on Minangkabau will be interesting choice for me to be remembered by readers.


Learn From Zikrul Hakim Bestari

In frankfurt, I had Pak Remon Agus, The CEO of Zikrul Hakim Bestari, as my roomate in hotel.  Every night after enjoying the busy day in the Fair, We were talking about publishing Industry in Indonesia. Until the Fair began, I was thinking that operating Gre Publishing was just a tool for me to survive and a just temporarily job after I get “a permanent job”. Because at that time I was still thinking, publisher is just a small industry and many major players have been establishing and dominating Indonesian book market. One of interesting book about publishing phenomena in Indonesia specially in Yogyakarta titled “Declare” which shows about the rise and fall many small publisher in Yogyakarta made me not so optimistic to continue my role in publishing Industry.

Pak Remon said that, He takes 14 years to build his publisher and finally now he succeeds to get omzet 1 billion rupiahs per month. Many people argue that publishing industry is mysterious. Somebooks rejected by the big publisher because its acquisition editor believes that it will not reach a big market then gets popularity when it was published by the smaller publisher. We can not predict the market appetite, but we only can attract the readers through innovative and inpiring books. That is the big challenge for publishers.


In Front of Festalle/Messe

With a visitor FBF 2014

In front of FBF Billboard

Finlanf Cool, Guest of Honor FBF 2014

 Messe map

  Main River

Negotiating with Canadian Publisher

  Buying Right From an UK Publisher


 Cosplay Time with a Germany girl

Goethe University

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