How to get into the International Market

Roving Reporter: Sarah Mounsey

How to Get Into the International Market

Panel: Frances Plumpton, Connie Hsu, Nerilee Weir   Moderator: Frane Lessac

In this interesting session three industry professionals shared their knowledge about Australian books crossing over into the International Market.  In a nutshell, it is very, very difficult!  Most of us know the joys and challenges of the children’s book market and this appears to be one of the big challenges.  So for those who have experienced the joy of being published here in Australia the next big challenge is how to cross over into the international book market?

The first speaker was Nerilee Weir, the rights manager at Random House Australia.  Nerilee spoke about how she travels internationally trying to sell rights to International Agents and Publishers.  She works directly with agents and sub agents.  So what types of books sell internationally

There is no single type and the results can be surprising.  Sometimes a book sells in only one territory, at other times in many countries and often they do not sell anywhere at all.  She explained that there was no rhyme or reason to what sells and each country can fluctuate a lot.  She used Germany as an example.  At the moment Germany is booming but previously for five years she was unable to sell anything there and prior to that it was also booming.  She also mentioned what is in demand changes regularly and at present middle grade is most in demand.

Frances Plumpton spoke next.  Frances has had a long career as a children's librarian and Literary Agent and is the ARA for New Zealand SCBWI.  She set up her own agency, Frances Plumpton Literary Agency in 2012.  Frances spoke about a typical experience as an agent at the Bologna Book Fair and the challenges an agent has trying to sell international rights.  She explained that over the four days she has about twenty-four half hour appointments. 

She generated many laughs form the audience when she shared many of the reasons picture books were rejected by different countries.  These included “too wordy, too racy, too local, too horsey and no pirates!”  Other reasons included that the illustrations were unsuitable, that wordless picture books were not liked and  that a message in the story was required. They wanted more realistic artwork and the reasons from different countries went on and on!  She mentioned that award winners were always of interest and also that it was very important to know the territorial rights for each book.

The final speaker was Connie Hsu, the senior editor at Roaring Brook Press in the USA.  Interestingly Connie and Nerilee have worked together on the sale of two books, Moonshadow by Simon Higgins and Nanny Piggins by R.A. Spratt so at least they could share that it is possible to sell international rights out of Australia!   Connie talked about the key reasons why the USA market is reluctant to publish books by authors from other countries. 

The biggest hindrance being the distance between the countries and the expense of bringing an author from Australia to the USA for events.  The other main challenge is the expense of editing a book so as to ‘Americanise’ it.  Connie discussed how picture books were extremely challenging to buy and that it is more likely that middle grade and YA would be bought.  She has actually reviewed over two hundred Australian picture books and has not bought one!  However  she stated for the right fit it would be worth it.

So in summary these three professionals shared an insightful and realistic view of how to get into the International Market.  It is possible but almost impossible!  #SCBWIAusNZ14