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Posted by Ola, July 29, 2015

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!

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