Promoting world literature to publishers – what kind of publications work best?

Hints and tips from publishers at the 2012 London Book Fair… At last year’s London Book Fair a panel discussion was held on how to maximise the impact of catalogues […]

Posted by admin on 14 February 2013 Features, Literature Across Frontiers

Hints and tips from publishers at the 2012 London Book Fair…

At last year’s London Book Fair a panel discussion was held on how to maximise the impact of catalogues and websites which promote international literature to foreign publishers. British publishers Briony Everroad, then editor at  Harvill Secker and Granta / Portobello’s Philip Gwyn-Jones joined journalist Rosie Goldsmith to talk about what attracts their interest and what puts them off.

1. Quality of the writing

It may sound obvious, but the better the quality of the target language of the publication (in this case English), the more successfully you will communicate your message to publishers and the easier it will be for them read and get interested in your books!

2. Be concise!

While opinions varied on the amount and type of information the publishers liked to have, or, for example, whether to include translated excerpts from books, the panel agreed on the fact that whatever information was presented needed to be succinct. For example, when introducing a work by an established author, it is not necessary to list every book and award that the author has to his/her name, but rather to pick out details which will be of interest to the publisher. For example, whether the new book by this author been translated into any other languages or won any awards, and a brief summary of the plot.

3. Include useful information

It is important to include other information which may be of interest to potential publishers. Aside from prizes awarded to the book, either in its original language or in any subsequent translations, it’s also important to note any funding available to help with translation costs. Any other information which helps publishers gauge how practical it will be for them to publish (and of course, sell) a book is helpful.

3. Be selective

As Rosie Goldsmith pointed out, the kind of book which may be very popular in one country will not necessarily be in another, which is perhaps why Gwyn-Jones advocated being very targeted about the books to be presented.

4. Online or in print?

Web publications of course raise different issues again, but good quality, succinct writing is just as important. The internet has the advantages of being immediate, up-to-date and much cheaper to produce than a print publication. But websites need to be user friendly, just as a catalogue needs to be well laid out and easy to read.

The panel pointed out that some websites had news feeds which had not been updated in a long time. So if your website offers a news feed, it is important to keep it up to date to maintain interest and keep communication open between you and publishers or readers.  Briony Everroad pointed out that another way of using the internet to promote literature is to have an e-mail newsletter – a short summary of a few books, some news and perhaps a link to a main website with more information will grab a publisher’s attention and invite them to find out more about the literature.

5. Don’t be discouraged! 

It may seem tough to draw attention to your books in an increasingly competitive marketplace, but the panel stressed that publishers are interested in literature from all over the world – all that is needed is careful presentation and accurate communication.

You can watch a film of the entire discussion at The London Book Fair here: