Greek literary agent Evangelia Avloniti, who founded the Athens-based firm Ersilia Literary, has a unique perspective on her local market having launched a business just as Greece was sliding into financial distress. She represents Greek and international authors, and also works as a sub-agent for foreign publishers and agencies, looking to place their titles with the best local publisher. Some of her U.S. clients include Grove Atlantic, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and the Elyse Cheney Agency.
When asked about some of the biggest challenges facing publishers in Greece, Avloniti said the focus has been on survival. "I set up the Ersilia Literary Agency at the beginning of the economic crisis, so my whole outlook and business philosophy has been shaped by the recession. From day one I had to learn how to be resilient and how to survive in a weak economy." She said that there is still a notable amount of economic uncertainty in the country following the January '15 elections, the loan negotiations with the EU and fears about "Grexit" (Greece withdrawing from the European Monetary Union). All the above, she noted, have led to a liquidity crisis. Because of these issues, a number of publishing houses and independent bookstores are facing insolvency, and payments are delayed or indefinitely postponed.
Despite these issues, Avloniti stressed that "there have been bright spots amidst the gloom." Many publishers, she said, "have managed to survive the crisis through careful management, a tighter and select publishing program, and a reorganization of functions such as sales and marketing." These publishers include bigger players like Patakis, Psichogios, Metaichmio; big-to-medium sized publishers like Dioptra; and smaller publishers like Kleidarithmos, Polis, Opera, Ikaros, Enalios and Aiora. She also thinks that the country now has a "brave new generation" of publishers, agents and booksellers coming up, who are "employing leaner business models while offering high-quality services."
According to Avloniti, interest in nonfiction has seen a significant rise in recent years, as readers look to learn more about the country's current situation. Recent nonfiction bestsellers include Yanis Varoufaki’s Talking to My Daughter About the Economy, and Dimitris Psarras’ The Black Bible of Golden Dawn. Avloniti has also seen a trend, in the last few years, in the popularity of fiction and non-fiction about the Holocaust and "the little-known story of the Greek Jews."
In terms of fiction, Avloniti has seen a rise in Greek-originated novels. She thinks this is due, in part, to the fact that houses are looking to cut costs on large advances for foreign bestsellers, as well as expensive translations. Nonetheless, translated authors still dominate. Translated authors currently topping the local bestseller lists include Jo Nesbo, Camilla Lackberg, Jonas Jonasson, Javier Marias, Victoria Hislop and George Pelecanos.
As for Avloniti's clients, she about Christos Ikonomou’s new collection of novella-like stories, All Good Things Will Come From the Sea, the first title in a planned trilogy about the effect the economic crisis has on a nondescript island in the Aegean. Ikonomou wrote the award-winning short story collection Something Will Happen You’ll See (which is being published in the U.S. by Archipelago in 2016).
Correction: An earlier version of this article mischaracterized factors contributing to Greece's liquidity crisis.