Above and beyond the advice that publishers may receive from their bankers to simply publish bestsellers, how might we go about building an international market for our titles? What strategies are available to us looking beyond our borders? We’ve given this a lot of thought at Annick Press. All strategies come with their share of lessons to be learned, and plans should be viewed in a long-term context. Tinkering, refining, and rethinking are together a necessary part of the marketing process.
We conduct an ongoing analysis of the international market for translation rights, looking to see where opportunities may be emerging and how we might access the market. In doing that, we maintain a list of countries and regions that hold the possibility for licensing and that may not appear on the list of obvious choices. A recent example is Turkey. We’ve recently sold 10 licenses into that country with the assistance of our Turkish agent. Some of the titles that have been picked up have surprised us. The picture book I Love My Purse by Belle DeMont, which explores gender conformity, and People Who Said No: Courage Against Oppression, a nonfiction title by Laura Scandiffio, were two. The point is that there are always publishers who want to make a statement with their buy-in choices. While the dollar value of these sales are small, they do add up, and the authors are very pleased to see the foreign editions.
To build our international business, we have found it extremely beneficial to attend more than just the major book fairs that are on most publishers’ calendars. The importance of personal contact cannot be overstated, and the opportunity to meet new publishers, as well as filmmakers and digital media houses, can prove to be a major bonus. The Seoul International Book Fair, for example, allowed us to forge relationships with a number of new Korean partners and reinforce ties with those we see at Frankfurt and Bologna.
Exporting our English-language titles to the global marketplace has proven to be highly worthwhile, but there are a few caveats to keep in mind. There is no question that there is international interest in English-language literature for children and young adult readers. Our books reflect a diverse population and deal with issues of current relevance, so they resonate around the world. However, it should be noted that as publications travel outside of North America, they become quite expensive. For this reason the highest percentage of sales are paperbacks. We’ve enjoyed particularly strong success in East Asia, Western Europe, and selected countries in Latin America. China represents a very exciting opportunity, though this is a longer-term project.
Under the banner of long-term planning, we’re exploring partnerships with cultural industries in other countries to develop and promote e-books and other electronic publishing opportunities. This could take the form of working partnerships to create products or having overseas partners promote distribution.
Rick Wilks is the cofounder and director of Annick Press.