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Louise Newton is an Audio Assistant at Little, Brown Book Group, and works across all imprints at Little, Brown on fiction and non-fiction titles. Louise is London Chair for the Society of Young Publishers (SYP) and assists the Royal Society of Literature at their events.

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The book trade in Ireland is booming with sales up by more than 20 per cent to date this year. Here are some of the highlights from The Irish Times’ article.

The Stats

  • Sales up to September 10th were €76.4 million, up 20.3 per cent on 2015, according to Nielsen Bookscan
  • The largest growth has been recorded in non-fiction (up 24.5 per cent to €31.4 million) and in children’s (up 24.4 per cent to €26.7 million) book sales
  • Fiction is up 8.4 per cent with sales of €18.1 million
  • The bestseller of the year has been Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (selling 56,300 copies to date).

Attributing Factors

  • The improving economy meant more disposable income and discretionary spending
  • The decline in the value of sterling has meant books are also cheaper in Ireland
  • The publication of a number of big titles most notably the new Harry Potter book.

Long considered nothing more than a gimmicky fad, it turns out that augmented reality (AR) is actually alive and well. At least that’s the case when it’s associated with a brand as large as Pokemon.

By now you’ve undoubtedly heard all the Pokemon Go stories and maybe you’ve even dodged a player or two, overly-focused on their phone while embarking on a virtual hunting expedition. On the surface it’s nothing more than another time-wasting game but I believe it offers some very important lessons for publishers.

Let’s start with the hybrid, print-plus-digital opportunity. Recent reports indicate ebook sales have plateaued and growth has shifted back to the print format. There are a number of underlying reasons for these trends including higher ebook prices as well as the adult coloring book phenomenon. But as I’ve said before, publishers need to stop thinking about print and digital as an either/or proposition. Some customers prefer print while others lean towards digital. Many readers are in both camps, switching between print and digital based on genre, pricing, convenience, etc.

Most publishers overlook the fact that digital can be used to complement and enhance print. Skeptical? Have a look at a few of the demos Layar offers on this page.

Stop and think about how something like Layar could be used to bring your static pages to life. Maybe you publish how-to guides, print is your dominant format and you’ve always wondered how you could integrate videos with the text. You’ve tried inserting urls but very few readers bother typing them in. QR codes are an option but they’re clunky and take up precious space on the page. Why not use AR to virtually overlay those videos on the page without having to dump in a bunch of cryptic-looking urls or QR codes?

Are you looking to engage your readers in the book’s/author’s social stream? Here’s your chance to integrate them virtually using a platform like Layar.

Better yet… have you always wanted to know who all those nameless, faceless consumers are who bought your print book from third-party retailers like Amazon or Barnes & Noble? Here’s an opportunity as a publisher or author to initiate a conversation directly with your readers. Add an Easter egg to the print edition where readers can receive a reward via an AR-powered offer; you will, of course, ask for each reader’s name and email address before handing out those rewards.

This approach to marrying digital to print is totally unobtrusive. Print readers who don’t want to bother with their phones can continue reading the book without interruption. Those customers interested in learning more, interacting with authors or uncovering special publisher offers will likely see the value of connecting their phones with the printed page.

The possibilities are endless. So the next time you see a Pokemon Go player wandering aimlessly be sure to thank them for helping identify new ways of distributing, promoting and enriching content.

Joe WikertJoe Wikert is director of strategy and business development at Olive Software. This post was originally published on his blog, ‘Joe Wikert’s Digital Content Strategies‘, where he writes opinion pieces on the rich content future of publishing.

I remember the first time I heard the phrase “info snacking” back in 2007. It was when the Kindle launched and Jeff Bezos said his newfangled device would slow the info snacking trend and enable deeper engagement with content.

The Kindle platform certainly launched the ebook revolution but it’s interesting that it didn’t halt short-form content momentum. In fact, I’d argue that info snacking is more popular than ever before and, ironically, that popularity is largely driven by Bezos’ own company, Amazon.

Remember the late 1990’s when it seemed like publishers could generate digital income by selling individual book chapters? Once upon a time I too thought that might be a viable model but in hindsight it’s clear books and chapters can’t be treated like albums and songs. Most books are written so that the individual chapters are too reliant on each other, thereby making them far less valuable individually.

We need to think about taking things in the opposite direction. Rather than tearing apart a book and trying to sell individual chapters, content needs to be developed in short, granular formats so that each piece can be sold on its own and can be remixed with other granular pieces. And while this is mostly true for non-fiction I can see where it also has potential for some fiction works as well.

Short-form content success is all around us. Amazon launched Kindle Singles several years ago and the program has grown to more than 2,000 titles today. A few days ago they announced a program called Singles Classics where they’re breathing new life into older short-form evergreen content from the pre-digital era. And earlier this month they launched a short-form initiative within one of their audio subsidiaries called Audible Channels.

All of this simply reflects the fact that we’re all pressed for time but we still want to consume content. Sure, there’s nothing quite like fully immersing yourself in a long book written by a wonderful storyteller. But these short form services are simply addressing our craving to be hyper-efficient, aware of the latest trends in our jobs/careers and always up-to-the-date on worldly news.

The movement isn’t going away, so what is your organization doing to address it? As you think about that question be careful to look beyond written content. I finally decided to buy one of those Amazon Tap devices and it’s only reinforced my earlier belief that voice UI’s and audio content consumption will be important models in the future.

Joe WikertJoe Wikert is director of strategy and business development at Olive Software. This post was originally published on his blog, ‘Joe Wikert’s Digital Content Strategies‘, where he writes opinion pieces on the rich content future of publishing.

Digital formats provide a wealth of opportunity to experiment with, and push the boundaries of, the traditional book. With much focus on what this can do to engage children in reading, here Jana Sukenikova takes a look at the origins of the interactive children’s book and why she used monsters as the topic of her most recent design project.

Monsters became very popular in this century, from Vampires to Werewolves to Dragons, Skeletons and many, many different kinds. When I was conducting research for my recent project, I was disappointed by the selection of books on the topic of monsters in the town library. Badly chosen fonts were fighting with weak and inappropriate illustrations, with everything looking ‘glued’ together rather than being well-designed. I passionately wanted to change this situation – by making a special monster book!

Book of Spooks and Jelly Monster
Book of Spooks and Jelly Monster

How monsters were born

This project was born from a coincidence when I was babysitting my little cousin. While we were draw­ing together I asked her “How do you imagine Monsters?“ I realised that her imagination of monsters is completely different to mine when I was her age. So I decided to put together a book, which will show adults and all children a completely new approach to a world of spooks.

I asked children in the local nursery school for help and the results were awesome! They produced around 100 illustrations to get started with and a third of these were bedsheet ghosts.

Skeleton by Simeon Vartik, and my illustration
Skeleton by Simeon Vartik, and my illustration

Make a toy from your book

Backgrounds, monsters and stories become a living, breathing thing by adding interactive elements. Interactive elements are the inspiration be­hind many of the books I found while researching. My Book is filled with pop-up monsters, stickers, monsters based on dress-up dolls, foils, mechanical parts, embossed illustrations, monsters base on coloring books etc.

POP-UP elements

Two dimensional objects are changed to 3D objects by folding paper mechanisms. These plastic models were used for the first time in the mid-19th century, when London publishing companies Dean & Son and Darton & Co added 3D parts into well known 2D scenes. Success came almost immediately. Pioneer of the best Pop Up books was the German illustrator and writer Lothar Meggendörfer (1847–1925) Some of his most famous books include Dolls House and Grand Cirque International.

set_3
Lothar Meggendörfer: Doll ?s House
Pop-Up HydraDragon from Books of Spooks
Pop-Up HydraDragon from Books of Spooks

Pieces of cardboard with interchangeable fashion costumes were popular in the rich classes for both men and women in Europe and America in the late 18th century.

The first manufactured paper doll was Little Fanny, produced by S & J Fuller in London 1810. Before Barbie doll was introduced to the world, paper dolls had a significant role in the lives of children.

Tom Tierney’s Paper Dolls
Depressive Monster from Book of Spooks

Moving Parts

In mid-1700 in France “Pantins” dolls were developed to rise against french upper class and royal courts. „Jumping Jacks“ figures were something between a marionette and Paper Doll and they were made to taunt society. Jack developed into a paper element in the books for children, where the base is an illustration and the body parts and head are movable with the help of rivets.

Vintage Jumping Jack
Vintage Jumping Jack
Hugging Monster from Book of Spooks
Hugging Monster from Book of Spooks

There are many ways to make a book more attractive and engaging for children or adults (both in print and digital). Just go to the library and have a look, you will find plenty of inspiration for your next print or digital project.

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fanah shapeless janaJana Sukenikova aka Fanah Shapeless is a multi-disciplined graphic designer specialising in Book Design, Layout, Brand identity, Print and Digital Design, Boardgames, Illustrations. Check out more of her work here.

filming

filmingThe Moment collection offers slice of life creative images and video. Getty Images have released a video detailing the challenges and benefits of using drones to capture the natural world, with Moment contributor John Duncan.

Here are some of the key takeaway points:

  • Drones have revolutionised aerial videography opening up many more opportunities
  • Drones can access places that helicopters can’t, and at a fraction of the cost
  • To fly a drone commercially you must study for, and obtain a licence from the Civil Aviation Authority
  • The Scottish landscape offers a rich environment in which to use drones.

Watch the video here.

 

 

Did you make the same mistake I did and assume podcasts are yesterday’s platform, that interest in them has plateaued (at best) and they’re not worth thinking about today? If so, here’s a short article that might help you re-think your stance. If you’re still not convinced have a look at the infographic in this article, paying close attention to the chart showing how podcast listening is on the rise.

What seemed like a fad that’s dying off is actually showing nice growth. I’m contributing to that growth as I now listen to a variety of podcasts during my daily work commute. As I leverage this medium I’m realising it offers some very important lessons for book publishers:

1) Simple, easy subscriptions

When I discover a new podcast I’m interested in I literally click once to subscribe and the content stream comes to me. What could be easier? More importantly, what’s the analogy in the book publishing world? How do I “subscribe” to an author, series or topic? We all have our favorite authors. Wouldn’t it be terrific if a single click could initiate a subscription to everything they write in the future? That includes having samples of their new books delivered automatically to your preferred reading app/device.

2) Steady rhythm

Your favorite podcasts are usually delivered on a predictable schedule. Some are daily while others are weekly. This rhythm leads to anticipation, knowing that today’s edition will be loaded on your device at the usual time. This is another concept that’s totally foreign to book publishers. Books are released according to seemingly random schedules and some publishers are still even locked into the old “season” model. If you’re going to enable readers to subscribe to an author or topic as described above, be sure to produce a steady, engaging stream of valuable content for your audience.

3) Discovery

This remains one of the hot topics, always on the minds of book publishers. If you’re focused on discovery think about this question: How well do each of your products enable discovery of your other, related products? Some publishers still rely on back-of-book ads, even in ebooks. How about automatically delivering other, related content to your audience? A good example is how NPR promotes new podcasts. Yes, they advertise by plugging new ones in old, established podcasts. But recently I noticed they took the bold step of automatically downloading the first segment of a new podcast onto my device. I don’t recall opting in to that and it might irritate anyone keeping a close eye on their data plans but it’s a novel concept. I wasn’t going to seek that new podcast out and now all I have to do is click “play” to try it out, yet another example of one-click access and engagement.

If you haven’t been paying attention to the podcast marketplace it’s time to take a closer look. Subscribe to two or three that look interesting and see what other lessons can be learned.

Joe WikertJoe Wikert is director of strategy and business development at Olive Software. This post was originally published on his blog, ‘Joe Wikert’s Digital Content Strategies‘, where he writes opinion pieces on the rich content future of publishing.

 

megan mondi marketing

I don’t know about you, but I found the article in The Independent about job vacancy adverts falling by 700,000 the week after the referendum result absolutely terrifying, though not entirely unexpected. As companies spend the coming months evaluating the long-term implications of the UK leaving the EU, there will undoubtedly be increasing pressure on marketing teams to cut costs wherever possible.

Here are five steps every marketing department should be taking now to help improve the bottom line:

1) Brush off the dust on your RFQs

Be it designers, printers, videographers or mailing houses, we all have our preferred vendors – those we have worked with often enough that it’s easy to just throw a new project in their direction without thinking twice because it saves us from having to go back to basics. But now is the time TO go back to basics. I managed to save a company I worked for £20,000 during my first month on the job by submitting requests for quotes (RFQs) to new and existing designers, printers and PR platforms. Be as specific as you can with your project requirements – including deadlines – so you can compare like for like. You don’t need to go nuts: 3 or 4 requests for quotes or a price matrix for each service should help you realise who to hire and what the going rate is for a particular project. You’ll be surprised by what you find!

2) Canva is your new best friend

canva marketing exampleI work at Kogan Page, where all of our authors are business experts, meaning their LinkedIn connections are to die for and they more likely than not have very strong Twitter profiles as well. We aim to leverage that as much as we can, and Canva helps immensely. Canva is a free, easy-to-use online graphic design platform. It has a range of social media templates – including cover photo templates complete with holes cut out for where the profile picture sits – so you can easily add book covers, discount codes and calls to action on prime real estate. Similarly, if you have a great book endorsement, take a minute to turn it into an image you can tweet. I don’t recommend using Canva for everything – there’s a time and place for quick and easy design – but it’s great for creating profile headers and graphics for you to post.

3) Use what you have

We’ll increasingly be asked to do more with less, so think creatively about the great content already at your fingertips to grow your database. Do you have access to premium content you can put behind download forms on your website? I worked on the apps project team for an educational publisher, and we created a series of revision apps using content we already had. We secured 10,000 downloads in a single day and were then able to upsell other revision products through push notifications.

4) Don’t be afraid to try new things

I think the gut reaction for many over the weeks to come will be to just stick with what works. But try to avoid that, especially when it comes to digital marketing. The beauty of digital is that you can get results fairly quickly and that it’s an iterative process: test something, measure it, tweak it and move forward. If it works, do it some more; if it flops, then refine it or move on. So long as you have particular goals and KPIs you’re working towards don’t be afraid to try new things.

5) Go back to basics with digital

As with going back to basics with suppliers, take the time to do the same with digital. All activity will drive traffic to your website, so optimise it first to improve the performance of your other channels. Refine keywords and copy and make sure you’re adding new content regularly. Also take the time to find your best-performing channel – whether it’s a PPC campaign, affiliate marketing or another channel – and maximize that before moving on to others.

Megan Mondi (@meganmondi) is marketing manager at Kogan Page. Originally from Chicago, she has publishing experience in both the US and UK, where she has worked for educational, academic and professional publishers.

 

Ebook technologies

With further reports of a decline in ebook sales, we share Geethik Technologies’ insights into who’s reading ebooks (this blog post first appeared on the Geethik Technologies blog).

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The Future Today Institute has created a terrific, free report summarizing key technology trends and what they mean for tomorrow. I’ve embedded the report below so you can quickly flip through it.

I read the whole report and highlighted the most noteworthy elements for publishers below. That leads me (once again) to the topic of curation, a very important (current and) future publishing trend. Curation is becoming as important as creation, especially as we’re bombarded with more information than we can possibly consume.

As you read through my curated list below, with slide numbers in parenthesis, be sure to look at each item through the lens of publishing. How will each one of these affect how your content is discovered, acquired and consumed in the future?

Bots

(Slide 15) – This type of automation will be combined with other emerging technologies, leading to things like highly customized audio learning platforms where the UI is totally voice-controlled (see SVPAs below).

Natural Language Generation

(Slide 17) – I’ve written before about Narrative Science and I’m confident we’ll see more and more algorithmically-generated content in the future.

Smart Virtual Personal Assistants, or SVPAs

(Slide 22) – Alexa is the one I use every day when interacting with my Amazon Tap device. Expect this one to evolve quickly as today’s functionality will be considered very primitive in a year or so.

Ambient Proximity

(Slide 23) – Beacons haven’t taken off yet but they represent such an interesting opportunity. Think of all the interesting things your local bookstore could do with beacons and promotional content.

Attention

(Slide 25) – Despite the lame name, this one will have a significant impact on the ongoing evolution of content presentation, especially when married to beacons and additional knowledge of the user’s current state.

Ownership

(Slide 36) – Up to now, creators of user-generated content seem more interested in visibility than compensation, but how long will that be the case?

One-to-few Publishing

(Slide 39) – Podcasts are dead, right? No, in fact there’s a significant opportunity in smaller, more tightly-focused audiences. This market concentration likely leads to higher subscription prices and/or advertising rates.

Intentional Rabbit Holes

(Slide 42) – Great concept that’s all about deeper engagement. What services can you add to your site or content to encourage readers to take a deeper dive and perhaps expose them to additional monetization opportunities?

Augmented Reality

(Slide 52) – It’s been around for a while but was only recently legitimized by Pokemon Go. Think of all the ways your content could be augmented via tools like Layar, for example.

Internet of X

(Slide 63) – Let’s say you’re a publisher of architecture books and other short-form content about design and construction. What’s preventing you from creating The Internet of Architecture?

Each of these are on different timelines, of course, and won’t affect content at the same moment. All of them, however, are likely to have a profound impact on just about every type of content in the next few years.

2016 Tech Trends from the Future Today Institute (formerly Webbmedia Group Digital Strategy) from Future Today Institute (formerly Webbmedia Group)

Joe WikertJoe Wikert is director of strategy and business development at Olive Software. This post was originally published on his blog, ‘Joe Wikert’s Digital Content Strategies‘, where he writes opinion pieces on the rich content future of publishing.

Charlotte Eyre is Children’s Editor at The Bookseller, covering the UK children’s and YA book market. She is also chair of the , and programmes the annual Bookseller Children’s Conference. Here Norah Myers interviews her. 

1) What are the current trends in children’s publishing and how do you see them evolving through the rest of 2016?

Publishers are more and more looking to publish books that will become brands, as they want the film, TV and merchandise opportunities, rather than publish stories for their own sake.

Celebrity and YouTube publishing is also hugely popular, as a YouTuber with a massive following has an instant audience to buy a book.

Also, there’s been a lot of really great middle-grade fiction recently and it seems like many publishers are focusing on fiction for this younger age group rather than YA, although they haven’t forgotten their teen audience.

In terms of these trends going forward, the bigger publishers will focus more and more on licensing and brands, leaving room for the smaller independents to focus on author-led publishing. I can’t see the trend for celebrity and YouTube publishing going away until one of these books massively fails, in which case publishers will start to tread more carefully, but it’s hard to say when and if that will happen. Finally, publishers will continue to look for fantastic middle-grade fiction although I know they are also keeping their eye out for the next YA hit. The industry is definitely hungry for the next Hunger Games or Divergent.

2) How have the recent sales of Harry Potter and The Cursed Child affected the children’s and YA market?

The success of J K Rowling several years ago helped create one of the biggest growth surges children’s publishing has ever seen, which is partly why the industry is booming at the moment. However, ‘J K Rowling’s Wizarding World’ is now such a well-oiled media machine I think most people think of Harry Potter as being a category of its own. If you’re a publisher with a Harry Potter licensing deal, the success of Harry Potter and The Cursed Child is great for you. If not, it’s probably not going to affect you either way.

3) What are the strongest diversity-based themes you see in children’s literature, and what do you hope to see more of?

The lack of diversity in children’s publishing is still an issue and no-one has seemingly solved the problem yet. There have been a few YA novels where the authors have determinedly included a range of diverse characters but these kinds of books sometimes feel like the writer is just ticking off a checklist.

I’d like to read books from a more diverse range of authors because then the stories would be more authentic, in my opinion. I’d also really like to read an adventure story where a BAME character is the lead rather than a side-kick.

I’d also like to see more northern stories.

4) How has digital publishing affected the children’s and YA market?

The ebook revolution has had little or no effect on the children’s and YA market. Children don’t read ebooks, as their parents generally want them to stick to print, and teens don’t seem that bothered either. The big change in publishing is social media and the impact of Facebook, twitter and instagram. Kids are constantly using these platforms and publishers have to think about how to market to children there, as well as how to lure readers off their devices. It’s both an opportunity and a challenge.

5) What advice do you have for anyone who aspires to work in children’s publishing?

First, network. Introduce yourself to local event or festival organisers and ask if you can volunteer. If you can, get yourself to a city and attend some of the big events like YALC in London or DeptCon in Dublin, where you can get to know book people.

Secondly, engage with children’s book chats on social media. If you talk about books you love on twitter you will soon find hundreds of people who want to do the same. It’s a great way to meet like-minded book fans and hear about opportunities in the publishing world.

Thirdly, if you can get a Saturday job at a local bookshop, do. You may decide to start a career in bookselling or it will give you a launchpad to work in other areas of the business.

Attending an event on ‘new trends’ seems apt at this time, just as everyone is ramping up on their Frankfurt preparation. We took away much more than 10 lessons from this jam-packed morning – but thought 10 might just whet your appetite for now.

Ruth Jones (Publisher Business Development, Ingram Content Group):

  • Amazon chose to go to market first with books, because books are well-ordered and categorized. Publishers understand their IP and know how to sell under ‘normal’ conditions – which helps to ride any waves of uncertainty and makes experimentation easier to manage.
  • It is thought that young people who spend time online have small attention spans as they constantly engage with bite-size content. This is just not true – they have huge attention spans, but only for content that is relevant, engaging and personalized to them.

Richard Orme (Chief Executive, DAISY Consortium):

  • Captain Ian Fraser lost his sight during Battle of Somme. Because of this, he worked with RNIB to find a reading machine for other blind soldiers. RNIB and DAISY now work with publishers to make sure as many books as possible are published in accessible formats so they can be enjoyed at the same time by anyone, regardless of their reading requirements or preferences.
  • The Marrakesh Treaty facilitates access to published works for people who are blind, visually impaired or print disabled. It was the fastest UN treaty to ever be signed, and it comes into force on 30th September 2016. The Treaty lays out specific rules for accessible formats.

Natalie Smith (Associate, Harbottle & Lewis):

  • The data protection act was made in 1998, so needs updating in line with changes to the way businesses operate. The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into direct effect in the EU from 25 May 2018. It will result in big changes, and higher penalties for misuse of data.
  • Even if the UK leaves the EU, we will still need to comply and adjust to the GDPR standards, because they will have a new extra-territorial scope for those, from outside, who do business with the EU.

Andre Breedt (Director Book Research International, Nielsen Book):

  • New research from Nielsen shows that the most important element of successful book sales is uploading a cover image with your book data. 83.2% of books sold had a ‘full-set’ of metadata assigned to them.
  • Timing is also important for a successful book launch. It is advised by BIC that metadata is provided 16 weeks prior to a publication date.

Florin Craciun (Head of Sales, Ingenta):

  • Your backlist, is another publishers frontlist. In other words – a good place to look, when trying to increase revenues is monetization of the backlist.
  • Revenue from rights departments flows to the bottom line. Historically there has been minimal investment in the infrastructure of rights departments; and this too, can be an ideal place to focus for increased revenues.

Thanks to BIC for hosting such an interesting event!

 

 

 

imagery

imagery

Brands are increasingly looking for authentic images to lift their marketing. Getty Images have published an interactive whitepaper which demonstrates what visual authenticity is, why it’s important and how to make it work for you.

Here are some of the key takeaway points:

  • People, and as a result brands, are valuing authenticity more than ever
  • There’s an increasing desire for real people, voices and places
  • The proliferation of social media and mobile devices have helped drive this trend
  • Authenticity helps build trust, both can be achieved by using the right imagery
  • We process visuals 60,000 times faster than text
  • There are ways to ensure you choose imagery that demonstrate authenticity.

Access the full guide here.

Jonathan Ruppin is Literary Director at digital start-up Orson & Co and the founder of the English PEN Translated Literature Book Club. He was a bookseller for 18 years, including 13 at Foyles’ flagship branch on Charing Cross Road.

Translated literature is having a moment, the press has being claiming of late. It’s being said by the sort of journalists who have previously claimed that short stories or novellas or enormous doorstop novels are having a moment.

The press, of course, is always keen to portray itself as a keen trendspotter and constantly makes assertions based on having received three vaguely similar books in the post lately or perhaps just one particularly cut-n’-pastable press release.

The facts are these

According to Literature Across Frontiers, translated fiction currently makes up 4.5% of UK sales, up from 3% at the turn of the century. This compares with almost a third in Germany and around half in Italy. Discount unrepeatable phenomena such as Elena Ferrante and Stieg Larsson and the increase is negligible.

If translated literature was really what everyone is buying, it would be reflected in what chain bookshops were putting in front and centre, in bestseller lists, in the pages of magazines as well as literary journals. And it’s not.

Translated literature, as the Twitterati smugly proclaim, is not a genre

To yoke books together on the grounds of their not being originally written in English is arbitrary and senseless.

Except… consider, for example, a novel set in ancient Rome and another in revolutionary France sitting side-by-side on a table of historical fiction: many readers adore exploring the past by reading fiction and plenty of them are interested in more than one era.

Similarly, readers travel the world vicariously through novels. An interest in Italy is unlikely to correlate with a passion for China but, in both cases, the reader is exhibiting curiosity about other cultures. A table of translated literature, therefore, makes perfect sense. Mostly importantly, it works: when I was at Foyles, we had one almost permanently, with an ever-changing selection, and it consistently outsold almost every other themed display.

It’s all very well dreaming of a world where readers are language-blind, but hoping that we’ll get there by leaving translated books to fend for themselves in the run from A to Z is wishful thinking. Positive discrimination is needed, just as we need to highlight female, working class and BAME writers, to avoid the cultural default of just waiting for the new one from Ian McEwan.

There are some major issues with exactly what does get translated into English

Safer choices by publishers lead to a preponderance of male writers. The lack of languages among British publishers means that Western Europe dominates. A lack of familiar cultural references in commercial fiction or British perspectives in non-fiction apparently makes anything other than English-language titles in these areas too problematic to consider. Credit for the translator is often buried somewhere discreet, as well as remaining largely absent from reviews. Random House even removed the diacritic from the name of Jo Nesbø lest such exoticism startle fragile crime fans (although Simon & Schuster have more faith in the child readers of his Doctor Proctor books and kept it).

We chose Senegal as the first destination in Africa for the English PEN Translated Literature Book Club, but were soon stymied: even names of global import such as Mariama Bâ, Ousmane Sembène and Fatou Diome are out of print in the UK. (Literature from any African nation can, incidentally, most often be identified by the hackneyed image of a sunset behind an acacia tree on the cover.)

The indies

We can only be grateful to the independent publishing sector, who have stepped in to cater for this vastly untapped market. Istros Books, for example, specialise in books from the Balkans. The main focus of Tilted Axis is books from Asia and Africa. And Other Stories and Peirene Press have achieved the sort of brand recognition that the big houses have long craved, signing up subscribers with a guarantee of literary intrepidity.

This is being mirrored by independent bookshops, who have capitalised on the millions of readers in search of something other than the cosily familiar. Globalisation of every aspect of life on Earth is happening now, whatever the Brexiteers may think of that, and Anglophone literature can only be enriched by embracing the remarkable variety the rest of the world has to offer.

Thanks to Norah Myers for sourcing this guest post. 

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