Two years after acquiring U.K.-based Pushkin Press, known for its well-produced translations of foreign literature, publisher and managing director Adam Freudenheim and associate publisher and COO Stephanie Seegmuller are beginning to more fully realize their goal – “to bring more of the best writers, admired and often bestselling in their own countries, to British and American readers,” said Freundenheim in a statement when he announced the purchase. This month the company is publishing its first children’s books in the U.S. under a new Pushkin Children’s Books imprint.
Although the press introduced the children’s line in the U.K. last fall, it chose to wait before publishing kids’ books on this side of the pond. “We wanted it to ‘bed down’ to some extent before launching it in the U.S.,” explains Freudenheim. In addition, the press wanted to introduce the imprint after its shift to a new distributor, with a strong children’s line of its own, was complete. As of July 1, Pushkin is now distributed by Penguin Random House Distribution Services.
The first two August releases – Colas Gutman’s The Pointless Leopard: What Good Are Kids Anyway?, illustrated by Delphine Perret, translated by Seegmuller, and Florence Seyvos’s Pockety: The Tortoise Who Lived As She Pleased, illustrated by Claude Ponti, translated by Mika Provata-Carlone – have already found success in France, where they were originally published. The former sold 130,000 copies in France, while Pockety, which has been translated into six languages, sold 100,000 copies. When Pockety came out in the U.K., Kate Kellaway, writing in the Observer, called it “a treasure... This is a tortoise that deserves to win every literary race.”
“For the time being,” Freudenheim says, “we are focused on books for children six to 12 years of age. Our imprint is dedicated almost exclusively to publishing children’s books in translation. And it seems to me that this age range is particularly neglected. There are a certain number of picture books that are translated, and YA is very much the flavor of the month.”
Going forward, Pushkin plans to do six to 10 children’s books a year in the U.S., and 15 to 20 adult titles. Last year it added a New York City publicist, Brittney Inman Canty, and with the distribution change it anticipates seeing its overall sales continue to grow. According to Freudenheim, sales tripled in 2013 over 2012 and are on track to double or triple in 2014.