As book sales continue to decline in Italy, publishers are extremely careful in building their lists. Grazia Rusticali, editor-in-chief for fiction of Sperling & Kupfer, explains that many readers have become very cautious when it comes to book buying and tend to stick to well-established authors such as Umberto Eco or Stephen King. But, she says, one area that is growing is young adult and new adult. “Publishers are keeping a close eye on that area, even publishers who did not use to publish for younger readers,” Rusticali says. Another area drawing increased attention is self-published authors, either from Italy or from abroad. Later this summer, Sperling will publish Anna Todd’s originally self-published After, which has already seen considerable success in other countries.
Movie tie-ins are also thriving, and Sperling & Kupfer publishes the book that sold the most copies in Italy in 2014, The Book Thief. Other successful recent tie-in editions include The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the Hunger Games and Divergent trilogies, and the television tie-in for House of Cards.
Rusticali explains that one of the biggest challenges for the industry is getting books visibility in bookstores. Bookstores are facing a crisis, she says, with many closing down, while supermarkets, which used to be important points of sale (for commercial titles, especially) have reduced the number of titles they carry, giving more room to other products. “In other words,” Rusticali says, “the battle to be visible in bookstores is tough. You need to choose the title(s) that you want to push strongly in order to get good pre-orders.”
Although e-books only represent about 4% of the Italian market, Rusticali says that publishers continue to invest in digital because some genres, such as erotica, perform quite well in that format. “Several publishers have created digital-only collections devoted mainly to erotica and romance.”
Since mid-winter, much of the industry attention has been focused on the bid by Italy’s largest publishing group, Mondadori, to acquire RCS Libri, the country’s second largest group. No deal has been agreed to yet.