The 7th Woman by Frédérique Molay is a serial killer novel that’s sold over 150,000 copies in France and has been published in seven languages, in addition to its native French. You can add English to that list on October 23, when indie startup Le French Book brings it to the U.S. as an e-book, bolstering its opening lineup of French translation digital books published in the U.S.
“If we love it, we’ll translate it.” That’s the motto that guides Le French Book’s unique operation, founded in December 2011 by Anne Trager, a former translator and editor in the uncommon position of having intimate knowledge of both the French and U.S. book markets (she’s lived in France since moving there from Ohio in 1985). Her idea: find the overlap in the two and bring strong French titles to America. “I couldn’t stand it anymore,” Trager said. “There are just too many good books not reaching a broader audience. There is a very vibrant, creative culture in France, and the recent explosion in e-reader ownership provides a perfect medium to introduce readers to some of these fantastic French authors.”
Trager’s time in France has allowed her to establish a network for finding and acquiring titles, working with publishers like Albin Michel, Fayard, and Play Bac to find titles that fit Le French Book’s mission, ones that are “entertaining and/or gripping” and “will cross the cultural divide.” If Trager and her copublisher, Fabrice Neuman (who also serves as the company’s tech consultant), find a title that they’re excited about but that’s maybe “too” French, they bring in American translation editor Amy Richards who, with her translations, “adds that layer that will help the reader understand.”
Le French Book’s first three titles are crime fiction—available only in digital format, though Trager said she’s actively seeking partnerships in the U.S. for print and audio versions. The first title was The Paris Lawyer by Sylvie Granotier, released July 2, a novel first published in France in 2011 that went on to win the prestigious Sang d’Encre crime fiction award. In addition to The 7th Woman, the other launch title is Treachery in Bordeaux by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noel Balen, the first of a 20-book series that has been adapted for French television.
Trager’s plan is to publish six to 10 books a year and to branch out to other categories, including health, a short story series, a thriller collection, and more. Le French Book’s goal is to bring market-tested, previously untranslated gems to an audience that doesn’t yet know about them.