How to sell books abroad

My name is Karima and I am a Foreign Rights Manager at Weldon Owen Publishing for territories like Germany, Scandinavia, Greece, Turkey and the Middle East. Weldon Owen is sister company and office-mate to Hot Key Books. You can find me musing about life at opinionatedandcuriouskins.wordpress.com and tweeting as @karimakins.

One of my favourite things to do when I travel is to look out for foreign editions of my favourite books. When I was younger I always wondered how my most beloved tomes ended up in French, Swedish and even Arabic. My young mind couldn’t quite understand how “Hanni und Nanni Sullivan” (originally Patricia and Isabel O’Sullivan from Enid Blyton’s St Clare series) were also available to read in English and various other languages. I grew up in Germany so didn’t initially realise that my fictional favourites from Blyton’s works had in fact been written in English to begin with! I thought it was amazing that language was not a limitation to spreading the joys of wonderful and imaginative storytelling.

Today I am proud to be a part of the great process that allows these works of the written word to be published in hundreds of different languages.

As a Foreign Rights Manager, it is my job to present all the new and wonderful titles for children to my friends and colleagues from foreign publishers. So armed with a suitcase full of books (or print outs) I travel to different countries to sell the rights to have them published in another language. There is nothing better than seeing one of the so lovingly created titles pop up in Stockholm, Beirut or Istanbul.

A few years ago I visited Cairo, and whilst doing some bookshop researchcame across these beauties:

Yes you guessed correctly, that’s the Harry Potter books in Arabic, which I had to buy immediately of course!

Sometimes, instead of hopping from country to country, I get to sell my wares at book fairs, where I can talk to all the foreign publishers in the same place. Last week at Frankfurt, I met with my colleagues from Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Greece, Turkey, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

There are a few ways that I approach these meetings: Firstly I like to find out what is doing well for them at the moment, as being from different countries this may vary wildly. Secondly, and more importantly however, is to find out what they are looking for. The great thing about this approach is that by finding out what boxes they are looking to tick I can tailor my presentation accordingly. Approaching the same customers in the same way each time without asking for their criteria could potentially lose me opportunities to sell some titles so asking questions is absolute key. Ultimately, the goal is always the same: to get the books sold! There is no reason language should ever be a barrier to telling a good story.

Thirdly, you’ve got to follow up each meeting quickly with all available information about titles that they expressed an interest in, the more the better. They would have seen 20 something other people on the same day (times 5 days) all with the exact same agenda as yours truly. But the MOST important thing to remember is to make sure they have been supplied with tea/coffee and a biscuit. People remember a good biscuit.

The quiet before the storm at Frankfurt Book Fair last week; those tables were filled by sales people and our eager customers pretty much non-stop from beginning to end.

Being a little cog in the machine that helps to spread wonderful books all across our fair planet is a real privilege, without which many stories would be read by only a few. With the dawn of the e-book, the deals we do have become a little more intricate as publishers have had to think outside the proverbial book-shaped box.

That can only be a good thing, in my opinion, as it provides yet another platform through which children can get their hands on new and exciting stories, no matter what language.

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6 responses to “How to sell books abroad

  1. Pingback: How to sell books abroad c/o Hot Key Books « opinionatedandcuriouskins

  2. What a great post Karima – I always remember a good biscuit!

  3. Hi, this is unrelated but on your website it says you published the Vincent boys, but wasn’t that published by Simon Pulse?

    • Hi Phoebe,
      Simon Pulse are publishing THE VINCENT BOYS in the US, but we are lucky enough to be Abbi’s UK publishers. Hope that helps!
      Cait

  4. Hi Carima
    I am interested in finding out on behalf of my client who is a Greek children’s book author how she can get her book published in the UK. We have had the book translate into English. The book is being illustrated as we speak by a very well known illustrator of children’s books and some of them are globally famous! Could you please send me your email?
    Many thanks
    Katilena

    • Dear Katilena,
      Hello! I’m answering for Karima, as she’s not really positioned to do translations into English. There is one agency that I know of – The Rights People (http://www.rightspeople.com) – who do work with publishers to bring books into English territories.
      Best wishes,
      Sara OC

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