Thursday, 9 May 2019

The Emma Press at Andersen Press: Week Five

As part of the development of the Emma Press’ children’s publishing programme (funded by Arts Council England), Yen-Yen Lu will be undertaking a six-week work placement at Andersen Press to learn more about children’s publishing on a larger scale and writing a weekly blog on her findings! 

Last week, I continued working with the rights department at Andersen and found some time to sit down with Sarah Vanden-Abeele, the rights manager, and ask her some questions. Her job is to sell rights, usually translation rights and digital rights, and take care of a number of territories with the rights director. I have had some limited experience in acquiring rights at the Emma Press, for example, looking at titles from other countries which we might be interested in publishing. As it’s a small press, all of our responsibilities overlapped so I hadn’t realised that in larger publishers, it was actually the commissioning editor who was in charge of acquiring rights, rather than someone in the rights department. However, they all work quite closely together in managing rights and it was great to learn a bit more about the relationships with international publishers.

In the UK, terms of copyright for a work lasts until 70 years after an author’s death. The number of years of a given license will usually depend on many things, such as the publisher, the territory, and how past sales (of an author, book, or genre) have gone. I learned that there are a lot of important factors to consider when selling rights, for example, the population of the country. A publisher in a smaller country may only agree to print fewer books, but this would be expected for a smaller population. However, this may balance out if they are able to adjust the retail price to be higher, for instance, if the country is wealthier or they might be able to sell well if the book’s genre is very popular in that country.

I wanted to know a bit about how Andersen Press chose which publishers to work with and Sarah talked about three main approaches. As Andersen has been around for a long time and built up a lot of key contacts, they typically go with the publishers they’ve worked with before. That way, you know what to expect and trust them with the titles and you get to know the type of books, whether genre or age group, that the publisher specialises in. 

Book fairs, specifically London, Frankfurt, and Bologna book fairs, are also a great place to make new contacts. The press is normally approached by interested publishers some time before the fair to schedule a meeting, but sometimes they are approached at the fair as well, at least to start the conversation. This was the case for The Adventures of Na Willa, when Emma happened upon the publisher and the book at Indonesia Book Fair and started to discuss publishing the book in English there.

Literary scouts are also helpful in suggesting titles with translation potential to their international clients lists. Usually, UK publishers work with several scouts as each scout works exclusively for only one publisher in each language territory.

I also asked about how other titles are received overseas and how they work with the publisher to market the book. This is one of the key things that Sarah will always consider and discuss with the publisher beforehand. In a series of books, the first few books tend to perform better than later titles. In some circumstances, Andersen can offer materials to other publishers to create content, such as posters or stickers, to help promote the book. It was interesting to learn about authors, titles, and characters that did extremely well in other countries because certain trends and genres are more popular in some areas. I remembered visiting Japan last year and seeing a French series about two mice which was popular enough to have its own small theme park, but my friend from France had never even heard of them.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been helping to organise some of the paperwork in the rights department – updating tax forms, copying contracts, and sending translated editions of books to authors and illustrators. It’s been useful to learn a lot more about the rights department through admin tasks and talking to Sarah.

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