The annual Rights Meeting focused on the Polish, Romanian and Russian publishing markets. The region, which has gone through political, social and economic upheavals – a hard turn to the political right in Poland, Romania’s faltering economy, Vladimir Putin’s questionable reputation abroad — has impacted each country’s publishing market. In all instances, print runs are dropping, even as the number of titles being published is on the rise. Book buying is also largely centralized around the big cities, and distribution to more rural part of each country a challenge.
One bright spot for each of the session speakers — which included Joana Maciuk, editor-in-chief foreign fiction department of Prószyński Media in Poland; Bogdan Stănescu, editorial director of Polirom Publishing House in Romania; and Irina Prokhorova, editor-in-chief of the New Literary Observer in Russia — was children’s books.
“Up until the end of the 2000s it was very hard to sell new children’s books,” said Prokhorova, “It was as if everyone remembered the Soviet times and people were nostalgic for those books. Now there has been a generational shift and people are more open.”
Romania’s Stănescu concurred. “Sales of children’s books are growing,” noting that even so, Romania remains the smallest book market in the European Union. “People in Romania spend just three euros per person per year on books,” he said, “and annual sales amount to just 60 million euros annually”
The panelists offered several words of advice to the audience, which included foreign rights directors, scouts and literary agents. For example, when it comes to selling rights, It is important for overseas publishers to assist with the eventual marketing of the book.
“If you sell a book into the Polish market, if the author can make a short YouTube video of appreciation to the Polish reader it would go a long way to introducing the book to the market,” said Maciuk. Stănescu who publishes Jonathan Franzen in Romania and said that he’d just hosted the author and took him birdwatching. “That is a form of marketing,” said Stănescu, adding dryly, “or at least it is for the ornithological society of Romania."