We received a really cool report from our foreign rights co-agent recapping the past year as it related to foreign book sales. There are four big book fairs each year–in Bologna, London, New York, and Frankfurt–where most of the foreign publishers gather to meet with US agents to discuss the hot books available for foreign translations. Bologna starts this week, so it’s a timely topic to discuss.
Anyway, I thought you would enjoy a few facts about what books are trending up and down in foreign markets and what markets are hot. Enjoy!
1. Advances. After a terrible couple of years with the European economy in the doldrums, advances are at least holding steady, albeit much lower than pre-2011. Still, advances last year were sub $5,000 on average, so don’t expect to get rich by selling one book to Hungary.
2. YA contemporary (*cough* John Green *cough*) is still white hot overseas. Memoir as well as issues-oriented and romantic fiction did well in YA in 2014.
3. Brazil is beating out everyone else in number of deals. Their advances are declining because the World Cup did not bring in the money they thought it would and it doesn’t look like the Olympics will either. But they are very, very active in translating books into Portuguese.
4. It seems that Italy’s economy has turned around and they have started buying books again. But France is still trending downward.
5. What sold the best? New York Times bestsellers! Also, award-winning authors or books, YA nonfiction and fiction, book-club high-concept women’s fiction, new adult fiction and sexy romance.
6. Books longer than 90,000 words are still expensive to translate and so do not sell as well as shorter books. Remember that the next time you’re writing.
7. Books close to their US pub date are also desirable, so don’t wait too long to reach out to foreign publishers. Our co-agent asks that we give her titles to pitch even before we sell them to a US publisher.
8. What was difficult to sell? Small press or self-published titles, backlist books, literary/quiet fiction, titles that are too American or small town in nature, paranormal, true crime, anthologies, historical fiction, mysteries, steampunk and urban fantasy, cookbooks, photo-heavy books, children’s picture books, and anything “too American”.
9. Self-published titles are often very difficult to sell overseas even if they reach bestseller status because they have been available in English in foreign countries via KDP for awhile. And the pricing is too low for foreign publishers to invest all they must for translation and marketing.
10. YA may be at a tipping point. It was white hot last year, but it remains to be seen if it will stay that way or cool down. Watch news from Bologna to see which way this trend is moving.