As Jill reminded us in a recent post, this business can be tough. Rejection. Disappointing sales. Occasional unkind reviews that evoke this Taylor Swift song. So it’s extra important to celebrate the good stuff.
Also worth celebrating? Nice reviews like these:
Booklist: “Ashman [has] the happy knack of making rhymed, rhythmic couplets sound completely natural . . . Groenink sets the scenes simply but beautifully, while giving each character a bit of personality.”
Kirkus: “The countdown and the rhyming text with a repeating chorus make this an ideal read-aloud for young listeners.”
School Library Journal: “[A] joyful celebration of spring and friendship.”
And, of course, there are Chuck Groenink’s spring-themed illustrations. Definitely cause for celebration, especially on the heels of a polar vortex.
(You can find out more about the book over here. And if you’d like to win a copy, leave a comment below.)
Still, for me, some of the happiest news comes from people like Sara Boncha, Associate Subsidiary Rights Manager with Disney Publishing Worldwide. From Sara, I learned that William’s Winter Nap will be published in Chinese, German, Hebrew and Turkish, and that there’s a German edition of William Wakes Up in the works.
I just love the idea of kids in other countries reading my books. And I’m fascinated by the translations (the German title, for example, is Knock! Knock! Come In, No One Will Be Alone Tonight!). Plus I love how they look:
Even after many years in the business, I still find the sub rights department a bit mysterious. So I asked Sara if she’d be willing to answer a few questions for us. And, happily, here she is!
1. Hi, Sara! First off, how did you wind up in sub rights?
I first learned about subsidiary rights when I was enrolled in the Summer Publishing Institute at NYU. Like 90% of the students attending the six-week immersive program, I thought I wanted to be an editor. But that all changed after I heard the talk by the director of subsidiary rights from Random House. I also love traveling internationally, so she really struck a chord with me about travelling to book fairs and working with foreign publishers. I was sold. I remember immediately after telling my dorm mate that I was going to pursue a career in subsidiary rights. I’d be a missionary of books to the world!
2. (a) How do you spend most of your time on any given day? And (b) what’s your favorite part of the job?
(a) Emails, emails, emails!
(b) My favorite part is when I get an email with an offer to license one of our books—not because I want to see how big of an advance we can negotiate, but because the offer will typically include how enthusiastic the publisher is about our books. I’ve wanted to work with books since I was a little girl, and it’s the only career I’ve ever wanted (except when I wanted to be a jockey and ride horses). My job lets me share books with the world, and learning how our books have resonated with people in other countries is something so exciting that it just never gets old.
3. Can you tell us how these foreign rights deals come about?
Our biggest submission to foreign markets is when we compile rights guides for the book fairs in Bologna and Frankfurt. Rights guides are abbreviated catalogs that highlight our titles that we have foreign language rights to sell, including territories who already have licensed rights to our books. Our foreign agents will use our rights guides to solicit interest before, during, and after the fairs.
The majority of the interest we receive for our books comes from the hard work of our foreign agents. They are literary agents in key territories that we work with exclusively but who are not exclusive to us, as they represent the interests of other US publishers and literary agents as well. Typically, I’ll notify these foreign agents of our forthcoming titles as soon as we have review materials or when the books have garnered great reviews/publicity. I’ll also send early review manuscripts to literary scouts, who are contracted by foreign publishers to research for them all upcoming titles.
When my director, Molly Kong, attends the book fair in Bologna, she’ll take meetings with both our foreign agents and international publishers to pitch our current frontlist of titles, as well as suggest any of our backlist titles that might match a particular genre or topic of interest that a publisher may be hoping to find. Our booth in Bologna features many of our books and review materials for anyone to peruse and even let us know if they’re interested in seeing more our of books. That’s how your German publisher saw William Wakes Up for the first time! We had a printout of some early spreads, the editor spotted them as she walked by our booth, and quickly emailed our German agent to discuss making an offer.
4. Are there particular countries that seem to be the greatest source of offers?
For the past few years, the majority of our picture book licensing has been with China and Korea. However, we’ve had a slight uptick in offers from Europe for our picture books, which has been fun to negotiate with those territories and see how their editions turn out.
5. We’re often told that rhyming texts (like the William books) are harder to sell to foreign publishers given the translation challenges. Has that been your experience?
Rhyming can be a challenge, more so with poetry or really “punny” texts. But if the story and illustrations are just right, publishers will find a way for the books to translate for their markets! From my experience, I’ve heard “too American” used more often as an excuse than publishers having issues with rhyming. Stories that are timeless with special artwork are the most successful in foreign markets.
6. You’re also involved in Junior Library Guild licensing. How do those deals come about?
I do also submit to Junior Library Guild! I send them all our forthcoming titles available for submission, which they review and select for their club members, who are school and public libraries. They choose what they consider the best books for young readers, and many of the titles they select almost always win awards or garner other accolades like honorable mentions or starred reviews. It’s always a huge honor when Junior Library Guild selects our books to feature for their club members…such as William’s Winter Nap and William Wakes Up!
Thanks so much for stopping by, Sara! It’s great to get a peek into this fascinating side of the publishing business.
* * * * G I V E A W A Y ! ! * * * *
I’m giving away two copies of William Wakes Up. For a chance to win, leave a comment below by March 1st. I’ll announce the winner in my next post. Are you a Goodreads member? You can enter to win one of ten copies over here.
A FEW MORE ANNOUNCEMENTS:
- Interested in a 4-month mentorship program? Are you a serious writer with multiple well-developed manuscripts? Check out the SCBWI-Carolinas Revision Quest! I’m one of several PB mentors (other genres available too). Open to all. Applications close February 11th.
- The winner of A Round of Robins by Katie Hesterman from last month’s post is Kathy Wiechman. Congratulations!
As always, thanks for reading!