Amid rain and chillier-than-usual temperatures, once again the international children's book community convened in the gastronomic capital of Italy--where Americans got their first taste of the euro--for what most attendees deemed a productive fair. The consensus, as in recent years, was that there was no "big book" of the fair. "There were no Daisys or Waldos," said Mary Cash, executive editor of Holiday House. "There seemed to be an overall sense of caution. Lots of U.S. editors told me that they were rethinking how they used imports, and scaling back." Virginia Duncan, publisher of Greenwillow Books, concurred: "I didn't see anything that I would die if I don't get." Regina Hayes, publisher of Viking Children's Books, said she saw "several things I've asked to be sent, or I finished up a deal, but I saw nothing completely unexpected."
On the sales side, Angharad Kowal, assistant sub rights manager at Simon & Schuster, noted that although there was no major standout, she said she was "seeing strong, steady interest in our large selection of diverse literature." In general, it was felt that there were slightly fewer American attendees at the fair. As Dinah Stevenson, editor-in-chief of Clarion Books, put it, "The aisles seemed less full of people than last year, but the mood seemed reasonably upbeat."
"Neither frantic nor flat" is how Simon Boughton, publisher of Roaring Brook Press, described this year's fair. "It showed a good, fluid market, I think." Although there was no sun until Saturday, Pat Buckley, sub rights director at HarperCollins Children's Books, commented, "The city of Bologna looks better this year. The Piazza Maggiore looks nice now with all the scaffolding gone."
For many attendees, the main purpose of the fair is not necessarily bringing home a hot new project, but building relationships and working on ongoing deals. "It was a very active fair, though for me it was mostly solidifying of deals that had been in the works," observed Arthur Levine, editorial director of Arthur A. Levine Books at Scholastic. Cash at Holiday House agreed: "We solidified some relationships with some really charming European publishers who translate our books, and that was the highlight for me."
Whereas most of the deals done at the fair are for single titles, Laura Godwin, associate publisher at Holt Books for Young Readers, said, "I'm now looking at Bologna the way I look at all of my books--as the cliché goes, I want to publish authors, not just books." She had meetings with her authors' foreign publishers (in most cases, Brits) to talk strategy, to work together on the marketing and publication of a book on both sides of the Atlantic.
Many longtime attendees observed that the nature of the fair was changing. "Bologna's not as frantic as it used to be," noted Maria Modugno, editor-in-chief of Little, Brown Children's Books. "If I say I'm interested in something, people ask, 'How interested? Because I've already got someone,' instead of adding another 25,000 copies. No one's trying to dump inventory on us."
Independent publishers, too, noticed a shift. As Peachtree's Margaret Quinlin put it, "What I'm hearing from people is that American publishers have pulled back, and are being tentative in terms of numbers. Which gives us independent houses a little more opportunity."
"This year has been the busiest Bologna for us," noted Mary Ann Sabia, associate publisher at Charlesbridge. "I think the consolidation of big houses has helped us." Sabia met with several foreign publishers who were hoping to find something they wouldn't see from the big houses.
"We're developing more of our own stuff because we're seeing less to buy at the fairs," said Adam Lerner, publisher and president of Lerner Publishing, who looked around for books to buy but wasn't immediately drawn to much.
Appointments were more to the point than ever this year. "Everyone has become so much more focused and less concerned with being polite in the selling sessions," said Mark Macleod of Hodder Headline Australia. "Some last only 10 or 15 minutes, which is great." According to Marissa Latshaw, associate director of sales and marketing at innovativeKIDS and a Bologna first-timer, fairgoers wasted no time telling her what they were looking for. "The buyers here are educated on who their consumer is," she said, "and they know what works in their market." Beverly Horowitz of Random House added, "I've always tried not to waste anyone's time, since it's an expensive process on both sides, and it's time-consuming to go home and send stuff. People are glad to know where they stand, though that doesn't always make you the friendliest face."
In the News
As usual, the single biggest exhibiting nation was Italy, with 242 imprints on 169 stands; the U.K. sent the largest foreign contingent (169 imprints on 125 stands). Then came the U.S. (127 exhibits on 47 stands), France (91/25), Germany (74/36) and Spain (64/25). In all, nearly 1,350 publishers from 67 countries took part, in more than 240,000 square feet of exhibition area.
The first day of the fair brought the announcement of the Hans Christian Andersen Awards, given biennially by IBBY. Carnegie Medalist Aidan Chambers, whose most recent title is Postcards from No Man's Land (Random House in the U.K.; just out from Dutton in the U.S.), won the author's award, while Quentin Blake, who has illustrated more than 300 books for children since 1968, including (and probably most famously) many works by Roald Dahl, picked up the illustrator's prize. It was only the second time in the history of the awards that both recipients were from the same country--England--and, in fact, both authors are published by Random House U.K.
The inaugural Children's eBook Award was also presented at the fair, to My First Internet Manual (Edizioni Piemme, Italy). However, shortly after the fair ended, it was announced that the eBook Award Foundation would suspend activities. But the children's award will continue, under the auspices of the Bologna fair and Children's Software and New Media Revue magazine.
On the first day, news spread quickly of the death of Pierre Marchand, who as founder and longtime publisher of Gallimard Jeunesse had exerted considerable influence on three decades of European nonfiction for children. More recently, the Hachette group had created a new publishing company for Marchand. He was to have been the guest of honor at the celebration of the 30th anniversary of Gallimard Jeunesse on the first evening of the fair, but out of respect for Marchand, the party was canceled. A simple ceremony in the fair's theater in the round paid tribute to this "perfectionist," in the words of former Bologna fair director Francesca Ferrari.
John Keller, longtime publisher of children's books at Little, Brown, had announced his retirement last fall, and came to Bologna partially to attend a fête in his honor. In his remarks at the party, Keller paid tribute to "the honorable and necessary business of publishing children's books," spoke of his 38 years with Little, Brown ("except for those three years with the Care Bears"), and finally put to rest the rumors that "my hotel room is paid for by the English publishers" (it wasn't).
Also attending their final Bologna fair were Judith Elliott, managing director of Orion, who is retiring in December; and Buckley at HarperCollins, who retires next month.
There were a few new and returning faces, including David Ford, back after a 12-year absence; Ford is taking up the reins from Keller at Little, Brown. A notable first-timer was Chip Gibson, who was named president and publisher of Random House Children's Books last month following the resignation of Craig Virden. Gibson, who has spent his publishing life in adult books until now, offered his impressions of the fair. "It was exactly what I was told to expect, though I kind of didn't believe it," he said. "It's every bit as fast-paced and arduous as Frankfurt, but you don't feel it. People seem to be having a good time, but there's more real work being done here than at BEA or Frankfurt. At Frankfurt, I don't get a sense of an international book community, but here there really does seem to be a community."
Getting Down to Business
Fiction was the order of the day, and of the fair, for many publishers. As Neal Porter of Millbrook's new Roaring Brook imprint said, "Fiction, fiction, fiction--everyone wants fiction." Lerner agreed, adding, "There's a huge amount of British fantasy." Horowitz at Random House pointed out, "There seem to be more books of epic proportions, with lots of characters and lots of action."
Anne Schwartz, publisher of Anne Schwartz Books at Atheneum, does not buy many books at the fair for her own list, but was at the fair looking to buy books for editors back home. She found that choosing books for other lists required a different mindset than acquiring for her own imprint. "I'm thinking, 'Can I sell it?' as opposed to it being personal," she said. "And being at the fair gives me a new way of looking at what I do. I love being exposed to all this stuff and seeing how my books look to foreign publishers."
Cash said she saw "some lovely picture books," but said she was concerned that they might not travel well. "I also look forward to reading quite a bit of foreign fiction in the next few months. However, the 'hottest' books I found for our list are some nonfiction titles that are more for the school and library market than the trade."
Tracey Dils, director of trade publishing at McGraw-Hill, said she was actively building both a trade and library list, and was primarily looking for "innovative book series as well as individual picture books--and we found both. Overall, there was more 'fresh' product this year than previous ones and fewer 'me, too' products. In terms of design and illustration, I saw more unusual and innovative things as well."
Modugno said she had seen "more books with a point or a purpose--books with genuine content as opposed to an excuse to print some pretty picture. The texts are more disciplined." In a deal finalized just after the fair, Little, Brown bought rights from Orchard U.K. for a picture book called Goodnight Me, Goodnight You by Tony Mitton, illustrated by Mandy Sutcliffe, which will be on the fall 2003 list.
Porter at Roaring Brook bought a picture book called The Rooftop Rocket Party by Roland Chambers from Andersen Press. "I saw a piece of art for it two years ago in Frankfurt," he said. "I saw it here in proofs: I read it, I loved it, I bought it."
For Molly Kong, director of children's subsidiary rights at Disney Publishing Worldwide, the standout of her fair was selling foreign rights to Brundibar, a story based on a Czech opera, retold by Tony Kushner and illustrated by Maurice Sendak, which is due from Michael di Capua Books at Hyperion in October. "I'm seeing a lot of British publishers I don't usually see," Kong said. "We had a sight-unseen offer from Japan, and then they upped their offer." Other projects selling well for Kong included The Book of Mean People by Toni and Slade Morrison, illustrated by Pascal Lemaître; and Mary Pope Osborne's Tales from the Odyssey, a new series that garnered interest from the U.K., Japan, France and Sweden; and Naughty, Naughty Pets by Wendy Ann Gardner (with interest from the U.K. and Japan).
Holiday House saw its biggest success with Sense Pass King, a story from Cameroon retold by Katrin Tchana and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. Editor-in-chief Regina Griffin called the interest in this title "exhilarating across the board," particularly from France, the Netherlands, Italy and Korea.
Over and over, PW heard from editors and rights directors that new formats and new authors were getting attention. "Many visitors were looking for unique formats," said Latshaw at iKIDS, "and we are becoming known for that." As awareness of the publisher's properties increases, associate publisher Cynthia Hughes reported, they see many repeat customers. "Everyone we saw last year in Frankfurt has been back to see us in Bologna," she said.
Kowal at S&S noted particular interest from European and Spanish-language markets in Nancy Farmer's fall novel, The House of the Scorpion; there was also keen interest from various European countries for Wenny Has Wings by Janet Lee Carey and Tithe by Holly Black.
According to Buckley at HarperCollins, "People are looking for first novels," and she singled out two debut novels that were of interest to publishers in a range of countries: Making the Run by Heather Henson and How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found by Sara Nickerson.
Boughton at Roaring Brook reported attention for Shattering Glass, a first novel by Gail Giles ("I think we'll be having auctions in a couple of markets"); Another Perfect Day, a debut by Ross MacDonald ("We had at least two British publishers come by and say, 'We don't buy any picture books, but we're interested in this one' "); and Action Jackson by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illus. by Robert Andrew Parker, a picture book about the painter Jackson Pollock ("Even with an American subject, there is international interest, in France especially").
Charlesbridge's Sabia observed, "Over the last two or three years, I've seen more interest in illustrated nonfiction picture books." She cited two fall titles in particular: Beaks by Sneed B. Collard III, illus. by Robin Brickman, and Froggie Went A-Courtin' by Iza Trapani. "And I was amused to see interest in Ice Cream [by Jules Older, illus. by Lyn Severance] from Finland, since the book lists Finland as the third in the top five ice cream-eating countries in the world [beaten only by New Zealand and the U.S.]."
"People don't want anything too depressing," said FSG sub rights director Maria Kjoller, who reported strong interest in fiction, especially Dillon Dillon, Kate Banks's debut novel, and First French Kiss by Adam Bagdasarian, along with backlist favorites like Holes by Louis Sachar, which the Ellen Levine Agency has sold in 28 languages and continues to sell into new markets.
Houghton Mifflin's associate sub rights director Rebecca Mancini said she sometimes arrives at the fair with preconceived ideas about which of her books might sell best internationally, "but I'm always wrong--it's so subjective." The two books she was offering that "everyone loves because they're so cute" were Gossie and Gossie and Gertie by Olivier Dunrea, two small-format picture books. "We've had so much interest because they're so simple," she said.
One of Anne Schwartz's fall books, Manneken Pis: A Simple Story of a Boy Who Peed on a War by Vladimir Radunsky, is already sold to six countries and was getting additional interest at the fair. The book's cover and content feature a Belgian fountain sculpture of a boy urinating, which might cause a stir in the U.S., but Schwartz said it hasn't hurt foreign sales. "The boy's penis doesn't even register to foreign publishers--we practically have to point it out to people over here!"
Robie Rogge, publishing manager of the special publications division at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was showing, among other projects, A Beginner's Book of Origami by Steve and Megumi Biddle, which went to Regina Hayes at Viking, with strong interest from British, Spanish, and French publishers; and Write Like an Ancient Egyptian!, with hieroglyph stencils, stickers and "papyrus," which saw multiple interest from American, British, German, French and Spanish publishers.
New to the fair this year was a booth organized by the U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Consumer Goods, intended to promote export of American goods, including books. Edward Kimmel, international trade specialist/overseas trade shows, who staffed the booth, said he was representing 10 independent publishers with a total of 16 books. "I had a few prearranged appointments but walk-in traffic was slow for me," he said. "But I did generate a few trade leads for our participants." Kimmel was not sure whether he would return to the fair next year.
Andrea Cavallaro, sub rights director at Harcourt Children's Books, said she was making up for not being at Frankfurt last year (because of September 11) by doing more business than usual. High-profile books on display included Auntie Claus and the Key to Christmas, Elise Primavera's follow-up to Auntie Claus; and Little Yau, the latest Janell Cannon picture book. Harcourt was also showing a crossover spin-off of The Little Prince called A Guide for Grown-Ups, which is a collection of quotes from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's classic; naturally, the foreign publishers of the original Little Prince were most interested.
The effects of the events of September 11 could be felt elsewhere at the fair. Hodder's Macleod observed, "Several American publishers said they were looking for things that were more sensitive, more thoughtful." Valerie Hussey, president and CEO of Kids Can Press, noted particular attention for If the World Were a Village by David J. Smith, illustrated by Shelagh Armstrong. "Despite there not being an overtly political atmosphere at the fair," she observed, "a book that addresses the world community has garnered the most interest on our list."
Hayes at Viking was surprised at the number of foreign publishers who asked to be sent galleys of Understanding September 11th: Answering Questions About the Attacks on America by Mitch Frank. "We didn't expect any interest. They're interested in the questions Americans are asking themselves, and are interested to see that we're much more self-critical than people thought."
Buckley at HarperCollins reported that a September 11-related title acquired just before the fair, With Their Eyes: September 11th--The View from a High School at Ground Zero, a collection of writings by students at Manhattan's Stuyvesant High School compiled by Annie Thoms, was garnering interest from foreign publishers.
As tensions escalated in Israel during the fair, North-South sub rights manager Iris Ji sold rights to an Israeli publisher (Daniella De-Nur Publishers in Tel Aviv) to do a bilingual edition of a picture book about cooperation called A Cat and a Dog. The publisher will print a bilingual Hebrew-Arabic version to help promote peace in the region.
Across the Pond
The U.S. and the U.K. are traditionally each other's biggest trading partners; the American market has been the stronger one in recent years, but the gloom seemed to have lifted in the British pavilion this year. As Macleod observed, "What a change: the optimism of the British! They've gotten smarter about the education market, and are not just dependent on retail and the High Street."
The success of Harry Potter and Philip Pullman has resulted in an overwhelming interest in children's fiction from all sides. As Sarah Odedina of Bloomsbury put it, "There's a renaissance in reading." It's a view endorsed by all, including Judith Elliott at Orion. "The interest in fiction is global," she said. "Japan and Korea are as keen as Europe."
However, all publishers are aware of the huge risks now being taken, and the dangers of the high stakes. Kate Wilson, managing director of Macmillan, sounded a note of caution. "We have a responsibility to authors, who may need more nourishment than the very heavy exposure gives them," she said. "When it works well, it's lovely and great, but when it doesn't, then what? We don't have an ever-increasing audience, so though it's exciting, we must be cautious."
Still, with such potential rewards, publishers are making fiction a top priority. HarperCollins in the U.K., which will work in closer cooperation with the U.S., has recently signed a two-book deal with Louise Rennison to publish her "non-Georgia" titles (which are published by Piccadilly Press) and has become the sole fiction publisher of Michael Morpurgo. Additionally, just before the fair, fiction editorial director Gillie Russell had acquired the four books of The Pagan Series by Australian author Catherine Jinks for a five-figure sum from Philippa Milnes-Smith, in one of her first deals as an agent with LAW. The U.S. rights were sold for a five-figure sum to Candlewick.
At Bloomsbury, Odedina also sees new possibilities in buying in fiction, especially from the U.S., as well as developing British authors. Bloomsbury had a runaway success in the U.K. with Louis Sachar's Holes. "It's become easier to publish U.S. fiction in the U.K.," she said. "Though it may be American in setting, the themes are universal, and there's now recognition that these books speak to all children. We're less nationalist than we were in the 1990s."
At Egmont, Cally Poplak is already having success with the notoriously difficult area of fiction in translation. Translated from the German, Reinhardt Jung's Bambert's Book of Missing Stories has already been very favorably received, and Poplak was on the lookout for other titles that Egmont feels can flourish while fiction is so strong.
New authors are the focus of the Oxford University Press expansion. Sally Prue's Cold Tom has been very successful in the U.K. and was sold to Germany and Korea at the fair. Other debut novels, such as Patrick Cave's Number 99 and Julia Clarke's Summertime Blues, also proved popular.
Trilogies Are Hot
While all areas of fiction are doing well, publishing trilogies for the crossover market is the hottest ticket. Macmillan had proofs of Lian Hearn's Across the Nightingale Floor, the first title in the Tales of the Otori trilogy, which it had snapped up in an auction earlier this year for a six-figure sum. To be featured as the lead hardcover title on both its adult and children's lists in fall 2002, the book has already sold in more than 20 languages.
Bloomsbury, too, is launching a trilogy later this year. Stravaganza: City of Masks is the first of three time-slip novels set in Venice by Mary Hoffman. Already to be published simultaneously in the U.S., there was an "insatiable" demand for the book. Emma Matthewson, Bloomsbury's commissioning editor, said, "Interest was coming from across Europe and we had immediate offers from both Germany and Finland."
And on the eve of the fair, Hodder Children's Books clinched a deal on a trilogy, The Ilmoor Chronicles by newcomer David Lee Stone, for a six-figure sum. Described by Venetia Gosling, Hodder's editorial director of fiction, as "fantasy in the style of The League of Gentlemen with a medieval setting," the first title will be published in summer 2003.
Time will tell whether the market can really support quite so many trilogies in such a short space of time, especially since both Rowling and Pullman have more books to come. What is certain, however, is that fiction is selling. At Puffin, which has been celebrating the outstanding success of Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl, managing director Francesca Dow said, "The series market is flat. One-off novels are attracting all the attention."
At Macmillan, Wilson agreed. "We saw the turn in the market with the success of Peter Dickinson's The Kin. It showed us the scope of fiction, and we've been seen as a big player ever since." Macmillan has high hopes for newcomer Georgia Byng's Molly Moon's Incredible Book of Hypnotism, due out in the U.K. next month.
It's not just newcomers who are benefiting from the fiction surge. Established authors are being fought over, leading to bigger rewards. Puffin announced two deals by the close of the fair it bought the paperback rights to Melvin Burgess's next three books from Andersen Press for a six-figure sum plus an increased fee for backlist titles. Puffin also acquired Eoin Colfer's The Wishlist, a title written prior to Artemis Fowl, which has already been sold in the U.S. and throughout Europe, from his original publisher, O'Brien Press.
Bestselling authors Jacqueline Wilson and Brian Jacques were both at the fair with their respective publishers, Random House and Puffin. Jacques recently moved from Random in the U.K. to be published worldwide by Penguin, under the guidance of Philomel editor Patti Lee Gauch. Triss is Jacques's first new Redwall title for Puffin; it will be published simultaneously in the U.S. and the U.K. in September.
Picture Book Highlights
The unusual success of fiction did not completely eclipse picture books--the traditional core business of the fair. While the U.K. trade in picture books has been flat in recent years, the fair rekindled optimism about the international market.
Andersen Press, founded by Klaus Flugge 25 years ago, continues to produce high-quality picture books by a team of authors and illustrators, many of whom--such as David McKee and Tony Ross--started out with Flugge and are still creating books with him. Max Velthuijs, whose Frog series has been sold into 28 countries, was on the stand with Flugge. Flugge's big news for 2002 was the Melvin Burgess deal with Puffin, but his picture books continued to attract worldwide interest, especially from newer markets such as Korea.
At Walker Books, Jane Winterbotham is head of all publishing and David Lloyd returns to editing picture books, following some recent layoffs and restructuring. Helen Oxenbury was on the Walker stand, where Lloyd was displaying her illustrations for Phyllis Root's Big Mama Makes the World, a new take on the Creation story. Lloyd was also showing Lucy Cousins's illustrations for Jazzy in the Jungle. At Walker, too, David Elwand's Faerie-ality by fashion artist David Downton was attracting international interest as well as capturing the hearts of the British booksellers, even though at £25 it will be likely to appeal to an exceptional market; Walker and Candlewick in the U.S. will simultaneously publish the book this fall.
For Piccadilly Press, Adèle Geras's lyrical poem Wishes for You, as text for a picture book with illustrations by Cliff Wright, has become a statement. German and U.S. rights were sold before the fair, with S&S buying it to commemorate September 11. "It's an inspirational book that will lead children into the future," said rights director Margot Edwards. "We've had offers for it from across Europe as well as from Japan."
The combined lists of Random House included a wealth of picture books, including Nick Sharratt's Pants (David Fickling), Shirley Hughes's A Life Drawing (Bodley Head), John Burningham's The Magic Bed (Cape) and Quentin Blake's Laureate's Progress (Cape), to name a few. Random House managing director Philippa Dickinson is determined to keep the imprints separate and to celebrate each for its particular qualities.
Puffin is adopting the opposite tack by merging its imprints into a single Puffin brand, but that doesn't prevent a commitment to picture books. Dow aims to strengthen Puffin's picture book list, building on commercial titles such as Catherine and Laurence Anholt's Babysitter Bear, which was attracting a lot of attention from the U.S.
At Scholastic, whose success with Philip Pullman is partly responsible for the move to fiction, publisher Richard Scrivener emphasized, "Picture books are our new area of focus." Attracting attention at the fair were, among others, Joyce Dunbar and Sophie Fatus's The Love-Me Bird and Trishe Cooke and Ken Wilson-Max's Catch!
Comings and Goings
The pre-fair news that HarperCollins was making a temporary appointment for managing director of the children's division was badly received, but Katie Fulford, currently adult rights director in the company, who will do the job for a year before taking time out to take care of her young children, immediately inspired confidence. "I know about the children's list from an adult rights position and I know the business side of HarperCollins very well," she said. "What I want to do is make an easier environment for my editors."
Moving from Collins is Kate Harris, who takes over the role of managing director of both the children's and the educational lists at Oxford University Press.
Puffin, too, had a new look. Francesca Dow took up her post as managing director in January and was much in evidence on the large Penguin stand. At the fair, Puffin announced that marketing manager Elaine McQuade is to be given a more high-profile role, pitching Puffin to authors and agents as well as running the backlist.
Changes are underway at Hodder Children's Books, too. Mary Tapissier is to become chairman in June 2003, while Charles Nettleton, recently appointed deputy managing director, will become the new managing director. Tapissier will concentrate on strategic planning and on strategic planning.
Just over one year since founder Frances Lincoln's death, Janetta Otter Barry continues to run the list with hands-on support from Lincoln's husband, John Nicholl, who said, "Janetta is delivering the list with sensational drive." While maintaining its commitment to multicultural publishing, Frances Lincoln has also had a big success with Catherine and Laurence Anholt's picture book Chimp and Zee, which will be followed up with two further titles.
BBC Worldwide came to Bologna with a new look--children's publishing has been re-branded as CBBC Worldwide. The new division is to be split into one group for preschool character and merchandising, to be called Cbeebies, while publishing for six-to-12-year-olds goes under the title CBBC. CBBC Worldwide is hoping for success with a new preschool series, The Fimbles.
Priddy Bicknell, a British packager that is an imprint of St. Martin's in the U.S., is a list of high-quality photographic books for the very young created by a team who learned their craft at DK. Celebrating their first fair with books to show, Joanna Bicknell said, "The fair has been outstanding. People have been seeking us out from all around the world."
Viewing the Foreign Markets
In general, European markets for children's books have been holding their own, with one exception. Karen Abel, sub rights manager at Chronicle, said, "Only the German market is playing it cautious and safe." Moira McCann, director of international rights at Running Press, made a similar observation: "There were fewer German publishers around, which is a reflection of the state of the German book market."
Mathias Berg, publisher of Germany's ArsEdition, a Bonnier company in Munich, is also president of the German Association of Children's Book Publishers; in both capacities he found his side of the fair quieter--a function of widespread mergers, but also of the German slump. Yet Berg, too, confirmed that business was done, and said the fair is "more important to us than ever, because now we really need to sell." His own ArsEdition buys a great deal, notably in the reference field, where books cost so much to produce, but it creates 90% of its picture books--and sells them well, to Southern Europe (Spain and Italy), Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and Asia. But not to the U.S., U.K. or France, where tastes are different. "German books are more traditional, and parents buy what they liked as children," he noted.
However, rights sales to other countries were on the rise. "I've seen more interest from Spain that ever before, especially in picture books," noted Cavallaro at Harcourt, specifically in A Story for Bear by Dennis Haseley, illustrated by Jim LaMarche, and The Magic Hat by Mem Fox, illustrated by Tricia Tusa. And a major emerging market at the fair was Korea. "They've been buying a lot of books," Cavallaro said, "and then they come running back to the booth to show their colleagues what they got." She reported that Countdown to Kindergarten, a first children's book by Alison McGhee, illustrated by Harry Bliss, was garnering especially strong interest from Japan and Korea: "I think the book's educational theme is a big draw for the Asian markets," she said.
"Asia is the hottest market for picture books right now," declared Peggy Intrator, director of publishing international at Scholastic. "The Koreans, Chinese and Taiwanese are all making a strong showing." Big-name picture book authors with a proven track record were garnering most interest, she reported. For Scholastic, top titles included David Gets in Trouble by David Shannon; Alvie Eats Soup by Ross Collins, which Intrator said Korea in particular was looking at; Dear Mrs. LaRue by Mark Teague; and Merry Christmas, Big Hungry Bear! by Don and Audrey Wood.
Yoshikazu Iwasaki of Tokyo's Tuttle-Mori agency reported a boom in translated children's books, while the general book market remains in the basement. (Tuttle-Mori is up 30% in the latest business year.)
For Tachi Nagasawa of the Japan Uni agency, children's books were clearly ahead of adult trade. "The Japanese continue to make sacrifices for their children," she explained--something that is made easier by the decline in the birthrate to 1.2 children per family. As for trends: since last year there has been a boom in fantasy fiction, and Nagasawa was in town to feed that appetite. There were 37 Japanese publishers on 11 stands, but she found that the Japanese contingent included even more publishers without stands.
Tak Kubodera, a general manager of the international division of Japanese giant Gakken, observed that his country's children's book producers no longer take a back seat to those from the West. "Now we're being copied," he said. For Gakken, too, children's books are holding up in a poor economic climate--and he gave the same reason Nagasawa did (with fewer children, parents can afford to buy more). .
Rei Uemura, senior editor at Tokuma Shoten in Japan, is gambling on the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey, which she bought from Scholastic. Uemura hopes the humor will translate, and that Japanese readers will look past the Captain's four fingers (four is an unlucky number in the Japanese culture).
The consensus among Scandinavian countries was that it was a good fair. However, as Virginia Allen Jensen, who manages the Nordic collective exhibition, put it, "This region is not a unity--Norway is oil-rich, generous with subsidies for books. Finland is a good market, but that's not the same thing. The new conservative government in Denmark is undoing grant programs." Yet she tells of sales before and during the fair that clearly indicate her territory is now a net exporter. "And at home, people do read," she added.
"Perhaps there were fewer people walking around," conceded Andrea Dami of Italy's licensing giant Dami International, "but these are people who know what they want." "We're wasting less time," was the way Hedwige Pasquet of Gallimard Jeunesse put it.
Racheli Edelman, publisher of Tel Aviv's literary imprint Schocken, conceded that this was hardly the time to sell books in Israel--except for children's books; indeed, she was selling more children's books in this time of crisis than ever before. Nilli Cohen at the stand of the Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature had a steady steam of visitors, some of whom simply wished to express sympathy at a particularly rough time. For those who came to shop, Cohen offered a set of pamphlets specially prepared for Bologna to show "New Children's Books from Israel."
Elsewhere at the Fair
PW also talked to some of the agents whose job it is to find overseas homes for major American authors and illustrators. New York's Sheldon Fogelman made his home in the Literary Agents Center. He, too, found good markets in Asia, with sales up in Taiwan and Korea, even in Japan; also he was doing well with Germany, Spain, and France. Scandinavia was a market for small quantities, while the Netherlands had become less buoyant. The British were proving to be more selective, buying less because they were seeking to develop their own.
On the negative side, Fogelman was selling little to Eastern Europe, or to Latin America, for that matter (except when the deal was part of a rights package with Spain). And then the market was complicated by the growing tendency of U.S. publishers to buy Spanish rights for North America--which usually includes Mexico.
Dave Barbor and Marilyn Marlow of Curtis Brown (U.S.) had success with A Single Shard, a Clarion title by Korean-American Linda Sue Park, sold to Korea in a lively auction. For them, France was good for picture books, which are usually a hard sell from one culture to another. Asia--Japan, Taiwan, Korea--accounted for the lion's share of sales.
A new TV and Film Professionals Meeting Area was equipped with an appointment and message desk, telephones, faxes, computers with Internet connections, even snacks--all free for those who preregistered in this first trial year. The point was to provide a base for movie people who wished to scout the fair for stories and characters. In practice, however, it seemed as if the movie people took advantage of the space to peddle their own wares.
In one major change on the Italian side, Dami Editore, a leading children's publisher, was sold to Florence's giant Giunti group, a major both in trade and school publishing; the merger reportedly raises Giunti to the number two position in the children's market, with a 13% share to leader Mondadori's 16%. But the Dami family has held on to its characters, owned by the newly created Dami International, which will henceforth package books for Dami Editore and Giunti--but also for foreign customers.
A panel on the children's book market in China, co-sponsored by the Bologna and Frankfurt fairs, drew a packed audience to hear from mainland Chinese editors--and also from Margherita Forestan, in charge of Mondadori children's books, and Paul Langridge, rights director at Britain's A.C. Black. While only 31 official publishers do children's books exclusively, nearly 500 others--in a climate encouraging private enterprise--have staked a claim in this market. At present, 10 publishers have more than 600 children's titles on their list, 30 have over 200, while 220 have fewer than 10. School reforms have led to the demand for new children's books as well as textbooks; it's clearly a growing market. In mid-2001, the four Harry Potter books were among the top 20 bestsellers in China. At the fair, the China collective stand exhibited 22 publishers from Beijing and Shanghai, as well as rural areas.
It's possible that Bologna will be an even bigger fair next year, with the addition of exhibits by major school publishers from around the world. On the initiative of the Association of Educational Publishers, a steering committee that included educational publishers from the U.S., the U.K. and Europe met under Bologna Fair auspices to launch the Bologna Global Learning Initiative, to add children's educational publishing--which is felt to be poorly represented at existing international fairs--to Bologna's charter. According to Charlene Gaynor, executive director of the AEP, the committee members discussed several options for inserting school publishers into the fair. One was that the special area set aside for the new activity--an area promised by Bologna management, represented by fair director Elena Pasoli--serve simply as a showcase for publishers who will be exhibiting trade books elsewhere in the fair.
Next year's dates: April 2-5, 2003. Ci vediamo a Bologna!