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Author: Ola

Selling fiction abroad

Just a few editions of My Brother is a Superhero: from left to right, the UK, German, US, and Dutch versions of the book.

We’ve recently published a fantastic new book, My Brother is a Superhero, by David Solomons, which is climbing the charts of children’s books in the UK. This is brilliant news, of course, but I’m particularly chuffed about something else, and that’s the book’s foreign appeal: we’ve now sold it in ten foreign territories!

This is no mean feat: fiction for older children is hard to sell.

Kate’s written in the past about the specifics of book fairs, and how fast and to the point the appointments need to be.

Now, imagine you have half an hour with a publisher, and over 100 books in the catalogue that you might, potentially, want to talk to them about. With picture books and novelty books, the editor of a foreign publishing house can often judge on the first glance whether a book might fit their publishing programme. If they think the illustration style will suit their list, they can, too, read the whole book in a minute or two to see if they also like the story.

But when it comes to fiction, all the editors have to go on is the cover and the rights seller’s pitch: to really know whether the book is for them or not, they will need to read it (or ask their colleague to read it… or send it to a “reader”: someone who reads the submissions and then prepares a report for the publishing house, telling them what they liked and disliked about a particular title). And that, of course, takes time.

There’s a host of other reasons why selling fiction is tricky: the language and humour need to really speak to the children – there aren’t usually many illustrations to carry it through. And the realities of life described in the books need to be universal enough as not to be confusing when read by a child from another culture.

All this means that it’s always a great pleasure, and a great sense of achievement, to sell fiction to a broad range of territories. In the case of My Brother is a Superhero, we sold it to countries ranging from the US, through Hungary and Sweden, to China.

Here’s to many more foreign sales!

Selling picture books in Poland

Above, you can see the advance copy of the Polish edition of Open Very Carefully by Nicola O’Byrne and Nick Bromley. We’ve written about this title’s international appeal before here – we’ve now sold it to twelve countries – but it is interesting to see that this is the first picture book we sold to Poland. It is, actually, the first picture book we sold to the, broadly understood, Eastern European market, where fiction and novelty books are much more prevalent – traditionally, books published there for this age group have a much higher text to picture ratio, so it isn’t easy for the booksellers to sell picture books to the public.

Here’s what the editor Marta Lenartowicz from the publishing house Wilga had to say about their reasons for taking the risk and adding Open Very Carefully to their list:

“The main reason we decided to buy this book was its unusual form and plot. We thought it wasn’t “just another children’s story”, but a surprising idea with a particular flair. And the die-cut in the back cover simply delighted us all! Yes, it’s a picture book, but not as you know it.

Whilst we are not planning to make picture books the core of our programme, we are now looking at the picture book market and considering picking out the more interesting titles.”

Personally, as much as I love receiving all of the foreign copies from the printer, there’s nothing quite like seeing a copy of one of the Nosy Crow books in my own language, and I can’t wait to see Open Very Carefully in Polish bookshops next Spring!

You can take a look inside Open Very Carefully below – the hardback edition is in shops and available online now, or you can pre-order the paperback edition (released in March next year) online here.

A year of rights selling

American, Danish, Swedish, French, Italian, Brazilian, Korean, German and UK copies of Open Very Carefully (the Dutch copy is, sadly, missing)

Today we received two great big boxes full of foreign editions of Open Very Carefully, illustrated by Nicola O’Byrne with words by Nick Bromley. Whenever a shipment like this arrives, the couriers say something about how unreasonable it is to have our offices up two narrow flights of stairs…

We always love getting these parcels – for me, it’s one of the great things about selling foreign rights. You get to see how the book starts with an idea, develops under the careful eye of the editors and designers, then you proof it and take it to book fairs to, hopefully, sell it to lots of countries… and, finally, after a few months, you receive shiny new foreign copies that are similar but not identical to our edition.

I have a soft spot for Open Very Carefully, as it was the first book I ever sold. It was shortly after starting work at Nosy Crow, nearly a year ago, and we’ve now sold rights in nine languages altogether, so for me these copies mark a year of very hard, VERY enjoyable work – full of crocodiles, princesses and bunnies.

Open Very Carefully is out now in hardback. You can take a look inside the book below, and order it online here.

A visit to the Warsaw Book Fair

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to go to the Warsaw Book Fair in Poland’s capital. Despite being one of the lesser-known book fairs, and far smaller than those in Frankfurt or Bologna, I felt it would be a really interesting one to attend. I’m Polish, but I only started working in the publishing industry when I moved to London, so all I knew about the Polish children’s book market was what I remembered from my own childhood – and I was pretty sure that a lot of things have changed since the late 80’s and early 90’s! Needless to say, I was right… but only to a certain extent.

When I arrived in Warsaw, I was greeted by sunshine and temperatures reaching 30 degrees. Not a bad start. Armed with a suitcase full of Nosy Crow books, I headed to the National Stadium, where the fair was taking place, and hit the stands.

In the past 15 or 20 years, a lot has changed indeed: books are much more colourful and illustrations much less traditional than I remembered, but, exactly as when I was little, fiction remains the main focus. Picture books with sparing text are not very common, and I only encountered several publishers who delved into that side of children’s literature. Picture story books, though, are everywhere – books with full colour illustrations on every page, but with lots and lots of text for children to read. I suppose these could be classed as very young, introductory fiction. And indeed, some of them, as well as having an intriguing plot, are explicitly meant to teach correct spelling, enhance vocabulary and so on.

It’s nice to see that there are a lot of small, young publishing companies, pioneering exciting new formats and illustration styles, but I was really happy to discover that the old favourites, too, were doing well: just look at this new edition of Winnie the Pooh! (and, whilst you’re at it, excuse the rubbish photograph.)

All in all, it was fantastic to be able to chat with Polish publishers and see what direction the Polish children’s book industry was heading. Oh, and thank you, Warsaw, for the wonderful few days of summer! It was much appreciated…