As part of a comprehensive effort by Italy’s Ministry for Economic Development (MSE) and the Italian Trade Commission (ITA) to give more international exposure to small- and medium-sized companies in the country’s south, ITA’s publishing taskforce is organizing Voices from the South, an initiative aimed at bringing more attention to the region’s publishers.

The goal of the publishing effort, said the taskforce’s Elena Phillips, is to increase sales of translation rights to U.S. houses and to boost exports to the States. She believes publishers in the south—in particular, from the regions of Apulia, Calabria, Campania, and Sicily—have a number of illustrated books that would sell well in the U.S., and that many young Italian authors would also be well received here. Phillips noted that more and more Italian authors are writing with an eye toward international markets—a view supported by the growing number of titles whose international rights have been sold by Italian houses (there were 4,629 such titles in 2011, up from 1,800 in 2001). Nevertheless, Phillips noted, Italian publishers bought rights to 9,874 titles in 2011 from foreign publishers; Voices from the South is seen as one way to address the imbalance.

The ITA will kick off the project with a presentation at BookExpo America, at 1 p.m. on May 29, on the stage of the Translation Market at the Javits Center in New York City. A seminar for southern Italian publishers is planned for September in Italy; topics there will include the needs of the American market and how Italian publishers can meet them. Phillips estimated that about 45 publishers are eligible to take part in the Voices in the South program. Later in the fall, ITA expects to bring American publishers and agents to meet with select southern Italian publishers. To wrap up the first phase of the initiative, ITA plans to bring a few publishers to next year’s BEA, in New York.

Phillips said she is confident that the exchange between Italian and American publishers will result in more deals. She noted that Italian mystery writers have been receiving greater international acclaim in recent years, including authors published by houses from the south. One of the best-known Italian crime writers in the U.S. is Andrea Camilleri, whose popular Inspector Montalbano novels are set in Sicily, and who was discovered by Sicilian publisher Sellerio. Marco Malvadi, another Sellerio mystery author, will be at the ITA booth signing Game for Five, published in April by Europa Editions. Maurizio De Giovanni’s book The Crocodile, published in Italy by Edizioni e/o and in America by Europa, was launched at last year’s BEA.