When Colleen MacMillan, associate publisher at Annick Press, saw the German publication of Erebos for the first time, at the 2010 Bologna Book Fair, she didn’t have much to go on besides its jacket image. "I walked by the Loewe Verlag booth, and I didn’t actually have a meeting with them, but the cover caught my eye," says MacMillan. "That’s where it all started."
The teen thriller by Austrian author Ursula Poznanski, with a solid red cover featuring a single, sinister-looking eye, had just been released by the German publisher. That edition has since sold more than 170,000 copies in Germany, and won the German Children’s Literature Prize (Jugendliteraturpreis) at last year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, among other awards. In addition, the German film company, All In Production, has bought the film rights, and together with Studio Babelsberg is in early negotiations with U.S. film studios for a movie adaptation.
The buzz for the YA novel’s German edition continues to build – rights have been sold in 26 languages worldwide – and Annick Press, which recently published the book’s English translation, is positioned to keep that enthusiasm going in North America. But back in March 2010, when she acquired the book, MacMillan was working with nothing but an arresting cover and a hunch.
After an initial discussion with Australian publisher Allen & Unwin, with whom Annick has collaborated in the past to translate foreign titles, the two companies learned more about the book’s story: a technological thriller in which a teenager named Nick and his fellow high schoolers get caught up in a computer game that starts taking control of its players’ lives.
After a positive reader’s report, the two publishers each decided to acquire the rights. At more than 400 pages, the the translation of the novel (which was done by Judith Pattinson) was pricey at $14,000, but splitting the fee between them, and accepting a contribution from All in Production that also needed an English translation, kept costs manageable.
The relationship between Annick and Allen & Unwin may be unconventional, but it has proven mutually beneficial. , Not only did they share the translation costs of Erebos, but they pooled other resources as well: Annick commissioned a book trailer, while Allen & Unwin created a teacher’s guide. "It’s a nice way of working together," says MacMillan.
The team at Annick is putting marketing power behind the book. "At the Texas Library Association conference in April, on the day when kids are brought to the show, we’re going to do a giveaway for the teens." says Brigitte Waisman, Annick’s marketing manager. The publisher has booked Poznanski for the Calgary WordFest this October, and has scheduled a blog tour from March 25 to 31, with author Q&As, book reviews, guest posts from Poznanski, and giveaways.
"What really appealed to us about this book was the idea that this boy, Nick, was so drawn into the game world that the line between that world and reality started to cross over," MacMillan says. "Ursula has a wonderful gift for creating another world that feels very real to the reader."