At BookExpo, Ingram Publishers Services is introducing a seven-month-long promotion to encourage booksellers to sell more books in translation. The company has created a special area within its BookExpo booth that is dedicated to the “Be Worldly. Read Lit in Translation” campaign, which will continue at the ALA annual convention and then at the fall regional trade shows.
“Literature in translation is a reading experience more Americans should have,” says Jennifer Swihart, v-p of IPS marketing. She cites two factors that inspired Kim Wylie, IPS’s head of sales, to push the country’s largest distributor of small and mid-sized presses to do a “lit in translation” campaign this year.
One was the National Book Foundation’s January announcement that it will add a fifth National Book Award to honor a work of fiction or nonfiction that has been translated into English and published in the U.S. The other was the addition of Europa Editions to PGW’s client line in February. The press, with offices in New York and Italy, has brought attention to books in translation in the U.S. through its success with works like Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog, translated from the French by Alison Anderson, and Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein.
All five IPS distribution brands represent publishers of books in translation and are participating in the “Be Worldly” campaign: Consortium, PGW, IPS, Ingram Academic Services, and Two Rivers. “The message we hope to get across is that Ingram is home to some of the best literature in translation publishers across the country,” says Swihart.
Chad Post, publisher/editor of Open Letter, a press dedicated to publishing books in translation from around the world, says, “It’s impressive that Ingram’s doing something to promote literature in translation. It could be a huge boon for presses like Open Letter.”
“Ingram is a big corporation. The fact that they’re doing this is really encouraging,” adds Michael Reynolds, editorial director of Europa. “A number of new publishers, like Deep Vellum, are publishing works in translation. Maybe publishers feel it’s time to be part of the world, which we’re not getting through politics and the current administration.”
In addition, Reynolds notes that more and more booksellers are eager to promote and sell books in translation. He points to the increase in the number of bookseller applicants for the Bookselling Without Borders scholarship program, which enables U.S. booksellers to attend international book fairs. Last year the group received 90 applications; this year they received more than five times that number, 475 applications. Another sign he cites of stores’ interest in international literature is that 165 stores recently signed up to do a Europa backlist promotion.
Reynolds is particularly excited about one piece of the Ingram campaign that is specifically for bookstores to hand out, a book club guide to literature in translation. The guide features 20 books, arranged by country, and includes blurbs from prominent booksellers about the importance of literature in translation. The idea, says Swihart, is to make international literature less intimidating to read in a group. “One way to get a flavor and taste of other cultures,” she notes, “is to read a great book.”