Little Engines That Could: Children’s Publishers in Europe’s Smaller Markets

In anticipation of the Bologna International Book Fair, there’s no shortage of buzz about the fast-emerging kids’ markets in Asia, Latin America, and the Arab world, along with curiosity about how the traditional powerhouses of France, Spain, and Germany are faring. Falling somewhere in between, the smaller European territories are feeling the benefit of Asian markets hungry for content, but also the challenge of staying visible on the global scene as larger European countries develop their digital publishing industries, often at a faster rate.

All children’s publishers in these smaller territories conceded their relative good fortune in contrast to non-children’s publishing colleagues, due to parents’ (and even some governments’) unwillingness to cut corners on what they see as children’s cultural education. In Greece, says Dominique Sandis, Commissioning Editor at Psichigios Publications, juvenile “hasn’t felt the full extent of [the financial crisis’] wrath on publishing,” despite lower production numbers. Children’s publishers in those hardest-hit markets have suffered most in terms of the value of advances they are able to offer, agree Sandis and Hana Whitton, the Director of Oxford Literary in the UK , which represents many Hungarian and Baltic publishers. Several US Scouts and Rights Directors report that it’s only within the past 6 months that Greek publishers have started buying again, suggesting a hopeful upturn in business.

There is also concern over the production cost of small, four-color print runs, and over publishers’ attempts to absorb more costs by offering large discounts. “I’m worried people won’t recognize these prices as low anymore…and it will become impossible to produce good books, especially picture books, anymore,” says Eefje Buenen, Editor at Leopold in the Netherlands. In Finland, the number of children’s/YA titles has seen significant growth, but in a tiny country with tiny (expensive) print runs, the size of the market itself has held steady even as the variety of titles has increased, reports Outi Mäkinen, Director of Children and Juvenile Publishing at Tammi, Bonnier Finland.

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People Roundup, March 2013


Charlie Winton, Chairman, CEO and Publisher of Counterpoint, announced today that he will step down as Publisher of the company. Rolph Blythe has been named Publisher of Counterpoint/Soft Skull and will begin at the Counterpoint offices in Berkeley on May 1, 2013. Winton will remain Chairman and CEO, and will also continue to acquire books as an Executive Editor-at-Large.

Michele Martin will be joining Simon & Schuster as VP and Associate Publisher for the Gallery Books Group, reporting to Louise Burke.  Martin was at S&S from 1994-1999 and has held positions at Avalon, Langenscheidt and Doubleday, where she created and oversaw the Main Street Books imprint.  She will “work closely” with Jen Bergstrom, who was recently promoted to Publisher of Gallery Books.

Holly Dolce has joined Abrams as Executive Editor; she was formerly a Senior Editor and Producer at Melcher Media.

Twisne Fan is returning to Macmillan as Vice President, Trade Manufacturing and Production after 16 years at Simon & Schuster. Fan replaces Karen Gilles who is retiring.

The Frankfurt Book Fair has hired Michelle Turnbach as Sales Manager for English-language World, based in New York. She was previously with Baker & Taylor, working on their European and Southeast Asian retail opportunities. Also, NY-based Director of the German Book Office, Riky Stock, will add  managing the Literary Agents and Scouts Centre at the book fair to her role.

Following its sale to the Leon D. Black family last October, Managing Director Amanda Ridout announced her decision to leave Phaidon to pursue personal projects.

As previously announced, Michael Palgon has left his position as EVP and Deputy Publisher at Crown Publishing Group. He can be reached at [email protected]

Patricia Arancibia has joined Apple as head of the iBookstore‘s European operations. Previously, she was Editorial Director, International Acquisition & Relations – International Digital Content at Barnes & Noble.

Karina Mikhli has left On Demand Books for Triumph Learning to become Director of Content Operations.  She may be reached at [email protected].

Margaret Coffee has left her position as VP, Sales at Albert Whitman. She had been at the company since 2009, and was previously at Scholastic.  She can be reached at: [email protected]. Read More »

AAP Annual Meeting: Fighting for Common Ground

At the annual Association of American Publishers meeting in New York on February 28, the topic was “Innovative Solutions for Historic Challenges,” and those ranged from education to the current congressional impasse, to copyright.  Education critic and NYU professor Diane Ravitch was on hand to address the first, Senator Olympia Snowe discussed the second, and Richard Mollet, Chief Executive of the (UK) Publishers Association tackled the third.  Before the program got started, members met to elect Carolyn Reidy to the role of Executive Chair of the AAP, from her position as Vice Chair.

Many publishers from both professional and trade houses were on hand, but the session was not as well attended as some in the past, despite the impressive speakers.  Perhaps conflicts with some sales conferences caused the drop off.  Nevertheless, Macmillan’s John Sargent, PerseusDavid Steinberger (who acted as MC with Tom Allen, President and CEO of AAP), HarperCollins Brian Murray, Hachette’s David Young, Reidy, Cengage’s Ronald Dunn and other CEOs were present.

Ravitch was particularly outspoken about the state of American elhi education, declaring at one point that “charter schools transfer public money to private ventures, undermine public schools, and work to destroy teacher unions.”  She mentioned that, when she wrote her first book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, numerous publishers turned it down (it was eventually published by Basic Books.  Her next, Reign of Error, will be published by Knopf).

Snowe referred to the current congressional bipartisanship as “brinkmanship at its worst,” but on balance, she was hopeful that the country – and its leaders – are ready for change. Her book, Fighting for Common Ground, will be published by Weinstein Books in May.

Mollet was more focused on explaining what The Copyright Hub – a global digital copyright exchange initiative that would help potential licensors find the content’s copyright holders – would be able to do if all parties participated.  As the Hub, which is a nonpartisan UK government sanctioned program, would include book, music and other content holders’ rights data, its successful launch would transform the global licensing business.

The meeting wrapped up shortly past 1 pm, and Tom Allen reminded participants that they should return again in 2014 – as soon as that date and venue is set.  For details go to

The Jerusalem Book Fair’s Midlife Crisis: Taking Stock at 50

In the fiftieth year since its founding, the 26th biannual Jerusalem International Book Fair (JIBF) hosted 5 days of exhibits, panels, and literary events from February 10-February 15, 2013. More than 400 publishers from 30 countries exhibited, and the visitor head-count for the week exceeded 45,000. Amid jubilee celebration, though, a growing contingent of long-time participants feels strongly that this venerable event must change. While publishing is all about dramatic demands for change these days, ideas for transforming the JIBF are, on the whole, fairly straightforward. “The 2013 Fair absolutely confirmed the impression that many of us have held over the last several years that this should no longer be a book fair but a literary festival,” says Jerusalem-based agent Deborah Harris, who is a longtime contributor to JIBF programming. The reasons for such a shift are deeply rooted in Israel’s own publishing and literary landscape, along with the growing global circuit of events for publishing professionals.

The JIBF has always been “less about the Israeli book business and more about the [international] ‘JIBF family’” that has gathered for the occasion over the years, says Deborah Harris. However, Ziv Lewis, Foreign Rights Manager for Kinneret-Zmora-Bitan Dvir Publishing, points out that no matter how international the “JIBF Family”, the fact that some of the largest Israeli publishers chose not to exhibit at the 2013 JIBF “was a striking aspect of this year’s event.” The rights market that the JIBF offers is negligible, and with the value of books so diminished in the eyes of the public through the Israeli national chain stores’ discounting war, there is less incentive for the public to show up and buy books.  As well, publishers have fewer resources to travel from Tel Aviv (the center of Israeli publishing) and buy exhibit space.  Even if the emphasis is more international than local, a Fair that fails to serve the basic needs of the domestic industry hardly seems to live up to its promise as a viable business destination; many of the exhibits in the international hall this year were national literary or cultural organizations (“Books from Romania” or “Books from Hungary”, etc), as opposed to major international publishers there on business.

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One for the Books: My First Winter Institute

Wi8 logo

Experienced booksellers will tell you Winter Institute 8 was great but possibly not as great as some of the earlier ones; but those who came for the first time raved about it. There’s been lots of coverage of the breakfast presentations by Daniel Pink and Malcolm Gladwell, both of whom delivered mesmerizing talks that were smart, relevant, and compelling. But for me, the real takeaway (both literally and figuratively) were the books…hundreds of titles and over 26,000 copies–some just out; some due over the next few months.

Imagine a locked room filled with ARCs…and eager conference attendees literally peering through the crack in the doors to see what they could see. Teasingly, the ARC room did not open until 2:00 pm on Saturday and everyone took note of the posted hours so that a crowd was waiting as ABA Development Officer, Mark Nichols, finally unlocked the magic doors.

Fears of outages proved unfounded as the books were piled high and there were plenty for all. Over 140 different titles were neatly arranged on long tables, with publisher signs prominently displayed nearby, resulting in an orderly binge: large tote bags provided by Norton and Little, Brown Young Readers allowed booksellers to almost manage carrying their loads…and to come back for another batch shortly thereafter. But then the talk turned to all the carefully shrouded pallets in the corner of the room– even more titles that were scheduled to be displayed at the fabulous author reception on Sunday night when all 61 authors would be on hand to sign copies. Read More »

New Tools, Old Trade: Digital Publishing at the 2013 College Art Association Trade Show

The College Art Association’s 101st Annual Conference (held this year in New York, from February 13-16 at the New York Hilton) is primarily a spot for grad students seeking for jobs in the academic art world; professional symposia; and panels on such popular topics as “Eschatology in Art Historiography.” Tucked amongst all this heavy-hitting scholarship, the CAA Book and Trade Show gives businesses and organizations that are part of the wider world of art scholarship and preservation.

Of the many Big Issues on display at this year’s fair, it was the licensing aspect of the art owner/publisher relationship that loomed largest, making itself felt in a variety of ways. Tom Prins, owner of the book exhibit company The Scholar’s Choice, says that the hurdle of digital image licensing is the single largest reason why he doesn’t anticipate major change among their clients’ physical print offerings in the next year or so. He pointed out that even the few images in a work of philosophy or an artist biography can be legal hassle enough to keep a small press’ title out of the Cloud and on the Scholar’s Choice exhibit table.

Jennifer Norton, Assistant Director of Penn State University Press, wholeheartedly confirms that “the navigation of digital licensing and permissions issues is one of the most significant hurdles for first-time authors, as well as for academic presses.” The Art History Publication Initiative was established to help small presses and their first-time authors tackle precisely these sorts of challenges. Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Initiative will allow debut art history authors from four academic presses—University of Washington, Duke, Penn State, and University of Pennsylvania–access to the resources and expertise necessary to make 40 new titles available (10 from each press) in all major digital and print formats over the next five years. Grant funds go toward a managing editor and permissions manager who specialize in digital issues and whose skills are shared amongst the four presses. The Initiative also includes digital marketing dollars and enhanced video and audio material on a shared website linked to each individual title.

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People Roundup, Mid-February 2013


The big news of the last few weeks is the ascension of Reagan Arthur, current Editorial Director of her eponymous Little, Brown imprint to SVP Publisher in April when Michael Pietsch moves up to CEO of Hachette Book Group USA. Arthur will also join the company’s management board.

Atria announced that Dawn Davis will join the company on April 1 as VP, Publisher of a new imprint, reporting to Judith Curr. Davis was most recently Publisher at Amistad/HarperCollins.

Kevin M. O’Connor, Director of eBook Sales Programs for Nook, has left the company and will shortly announce his new position.  Meanwhile, he may be reached at [email protected]

Alexis Gargagliano has left Scribner after more than 11 years and will work as a freelance editor. She has launched a new website and may be reached at [email protected].

Hannah Rahill has joined Ten Speed Press as VP, Associate Publisher, reporting to Aaron Wehner. She was most recently VP Publisher at Weldon Owen‘s Food & Drink division. VP of Marketing and Publicity Patricia Kelly will leave the company after more than seven years.

Rebecca Strauss has joined DeFiore and Company as an agent. She was most recently an agent at McIntosh and Otis, where she was Director of Subsidiary Rights. 

Karen Forster, Director of Standards and Best Practices, has left BISG and is moving to Berlin with her husband.

Jonathan Ackerman has been named National Account Manager at Bookmasters. He will oversee the company’s relationships with wholesalers and retailers like Barnes & Noble and Baker & Taylor.

Jim Hanas will be joining HarperCollins as Director of Audience Development, reporting to Angela Tribelli. He was at The New York Observer, and previously was Strategy Director of Sonnet Media.

Daniel O’Connor has joined The Experiment, in the newly created position of Associate Publisher, reporting to Matthew Lore; previously he was Managing Editor at Melville House. In addition, Karen Giangreco has been promoted to Digital Publishing Manager.

Brandi Larsen has joined Penguin as Director of Book Country. Previously she was at the Chicago Tribune, where she worked on adapting the paper’s content for mobile devices and tablets, and expanding the scope of their business and their relationship with their readers.

Effective September 1, James Jordan is retiring as President and Director of Columbia University Press. He joined the press in 2004 and previously had been Director of Johns Hopkins University Press. Read More »

Thinking Outside of the Sandbox: Digital Kids Conference at the 2013 Toy Fair

While the name certainly implies a technological slant, the Digital Kids Conference at the 2013 Toy Fair on Tuesday and Wednesday was not all app-talk and virtual worlds. In fact, a theme emerged as quite the opposite: many new products in the toy market are combining digital with some physical product. Just as Skylanders was the talk of last year’s toy fair with its video gaming component combined with physical figurines that could be implemented into the game through a virtual portal, startups like Sifteo Cubes and even goliaths like Disney, which is launching its own Skylander-esque Infinity game, are realizing the importance of marrying tech with something tangible.

Even digital “toys” being sold as apps or online games that exist solely on screens are still making the efforts to mirror the “sandbox” experience of child play. Many new toy companies spoke about the importance of creation and community, emphasizing how interaction with digital products is key and should mirror behavioral patterns cultivated in real life. Toy Talk, headed by former Pixar exec Oren Jacob, aims to do this by creating characters that can actually hold a conversation with children, not dissimilar to Siri, and Roblox is a game that allows kids to virtually construct their own games and worlds in a souped-up, online version of Legos for the online gaming set. Roblox’s DIY model of allowing kids to create for themselves and others to modify reflects earlier statistics from Interpret’s global study that revealed user generated content (UGC) triples time spent playing.

Despite the huge emphasis on gaming (UK consultancy KZero reported more than $800 million of venture capital poured into this sector in the past five years), Björn Jeffery, CEO & Co-Founder of Bonnier’s Toca Boca identified physical/digital mashups as an “anti-trend” of “ungamification.” Most digital games and toys have been made in the interest of learning—following a linear structure that teaches or instructs kids in the process of using them. Toca Boca’s goal with their apps is to emphasize free-form creation over goal-oriented play, allowing their digital offerings to function more as toys than as narratives. The important thing with creating digital products, Jeffery emphasized, is distilling the themes of the physical product, not just transferring them to another medium—and this, he even pointed out, is coming from a book company, where narrative is usually key. Read More »

Your Guide to Film Scouts: Reeling and Dealing 2013 Contact Sheet

Following our Who’s Scouting Whom sheet giving contact information for a host of literary scouts, we are also releasing Reeling and Dealing, a sheet with contact information for film scouts who work with the book industry. Many minor updates have been added to previous years’ versions, and this year’s new additions include Netflix, The Smiley Group, and New Leaf Literary and Media. Click the image below to download the Reeling and Dealing 2013 Contact Sheet.

Reeling and Dealing 2013

Click on the image of the chart above for a full PDF version of the Reeling and Dealing 2013 Contact Sheet.

Fantastic Fiction: The Brits Might Be Ahead of the Book Discoverability Game…

The long awaited launch of Bookish this week was met with scrutiny as many explored its features and critiqued its usability. Though it’s the first publisher collaboration when it comes to online retail sites, it’s one of many book recommendation sites that have cropped up over the years from Zola to Bookateria. While US entrepreneurs explore the various opportunities to build communities and ecommerce capabilities to help the cause of book discoverability in an age of online purchasing, a quieter UK site is serving a few very well, ranking as the 21,913th most popular site in the world on, trailing comparable sites like Goodreads (354th), Shelfari (19,790th) and Library Thing (10,021th).

Fantastic Fiction is a fiction reader’s dream, as it captures complete works by every author we have entered, sorts them by year of publication and series, offers short synopses, and has recommendations from most of the authors for others that they like. It’s essential when you’ve just discovered a new writer that you love.

What makes Fantastic Fiction unique is the focus on the author and how their work is organized. If you compare it to an Amazon author page, there’s no contest. On Amazon, books are not grouped by series, finding year of publication requires drilling down two or three pages, and every listing is linked to a particular edition. Fantastic Fiction approaches from the perspective of the work and when it was first released. Then, if you click on a particular book, you find out all the formats it has been released in; the site knows if you’re in the US or the UK and gives you information accordingly—including the availability of used editions with links to the reseller. If the same book has been published under a different title in another country, it is noted in parentheses. In other words, everything a new reader needs to know is shown–cleanly and simply.

For the avid mystery reader, the site is essential and the UK perspective is especially helpful as, unfortunately, many fans find that their favorites are not always represented fully in the States. You can see at a glance which books have been published in either market and it’s especially helpful in finding all books related to a series.  Editors would do well to use the site to snap up rights to neglected backlist titles that might prove saleable given a strong new frontlist title.

And it’s not just mysteries. Search for any fiction writer and you will find their complete works—even when it’s just a story in a collection! Try it; you’ll be hooked.