The 9th annual Book Editors Conference and the second annual International Rights Forum, both sponsored by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA), were held in Grand Rapids, Mich., earlier this year. Cohosting were Grand Rapids -- based publishing houses Zondervan, Eerdmans, Baker and Kregel. Forty publishing houses from 17 states were represented, with 152 participants, including 25 foreign rights agents.
This year's meeting marked the first time that editors and foreign rights agents met simultaneously. On Thursday evening, the two groups hosted an opening banquet and keynote address by author and PW contributing editor Phyllis Tickle, who spoke on the current social, economic and business context for Christian publishing.
On Friday morning, Sally Taylor, PW's Asia/Africa/South America correspondent, presided over a discussion with members of the ECPA International Rights Managers Association. All agreed that in recent years international rights has become an increasingly significant segment of the business of evangelical Christian publishers, with rapidly expanding markets for Christian books in Korea, China and Brazil in particular. Many rights managers expressed the desire to learn more about international copyright law and to gain more expertise in contract negotiations. Taylor, noting that compliance with copyright law had greatly increased in Korea and other Asian countries, said that former pirates had in many cases formed mutually profitable alliances with local publishers. She also outlined the advantages and disadvantages of using locally based agents versus selling rights directly, and raised for group discussion the issue of licensing versus co-editions. In Latin America especially, Taylor noted, "ECPA is far ahead of the secular publishers in the way it d s business -- it already has solid distribution channels there."
Although no decision was reached about whether to continue combining the two conferences, there was no question about why the two groups had come together this year. Both editors and foreign rights managers sought a forum to converse in depth and across house lines about two related issues: the growing financial importance of rights sales and the missions of Christian publishing. All agreed that editorial and international rights departments can and must cooperate increasingly in acquiring and editing books, with a vigilant eye on their appropriateness for other markets. Cindy Riggins, international licensing manager for the NelsonWord Publishing Group and the organizer of this year's International Rights Forum, spoke to this issue, emphasizing the elements of a book that can make it too "American" for easy cultural transference.