Children's books the bright spot in difficult markets
The annual Rights Meeting on Tuesday focused on the Polish, Romanian and Russian publishing markets. BookBrunch was media partner at the event.
The region, which has gone through political, social and economic upheavals - a hard turn to the political right in Poland, Romania's faltering economy, Vladimir Putin's questionable reputation abroad - has affected publishers in each country. In all instances, print runs are dropping, even as the number of titles being published is on the rise. Book buying is largely centralised around the big cities, and distribution to more rural parts of each country is a challenge.
One bright spot for the speakers at the session - Joana Maciuk (Proszynski Media in Poland), Bogdan Stanescu (Polirom Publishing House in Romania), and Irina Prokhorova (New Literary Observer in Russia) - was children's books.
"Up until the end of the 2000s it was very hard to sell new children's books," said Prokhorova. "It was as if everyone remembered the Soviet times and people were nostalgic for those books. Now there has been a generational shift and people are more open."
Romania's Stanescu concurred. "Sales of children's books are growing," he said, while noting that even so Romania remained the smallest book market in the European Union. "People in Romania spend just three euros per person per year on books," he said, "and annual sales amount to just 60 million euros."
The panellists offered several words of advice to the audience, which included foreign rights directors, scouts and literary agents. For example: when it comes to selling rights, it is important for overseas publishers to assist with the eventual marketing of the book.
"If you sell a book into the Polish market, if the author can make a short YouTube video of appreciation to the Polish reader it would go a long way to introducing the book to the market," said Maciuk. Stanescu, who publishes Jonathan Franzen in Romania, said that he'd just hosted the author and took him birdwatching. "That is a form of marketing," he said, adding dryly, "or at least it is for the ornithological society of Romania."
Photo from left: Irina Prokhorova, Bogdan Stanescu, Joana Maciuk