Adapted Hist-Fic Huge on German Boob Tube, Tie-ins Take Off Too

In German Buch News by Siobhan O'Leary

by Siobhan O’Leary

Author and literary critic Elke Heidenreich once wielded enough power to make a book a bestseller in Germany simply by mentioning it on her television show Lesen!. When ZDF cancelled her show in late 2008 amidst controversial debates about its quality, many saw it as a sign that television networks now deemed books too unsexy for prime time.

But as the Börsenblatt points out this week, books continue to play as big a role as ever in television programming in Germany — particularly in the form of made-for-tv adaptations.

In fall 2010, the network SAT.1 featured two extremely popular television adaptations of the Wanderhure by Iny Lorentz, published by Knaur, and Ken Follett’s Die Säulen der Erde [“The Pillars of the Earth”], published in Germany by Bastei Lübbe. The former, based on a popular historical novel about a woman falsely accused of harlotry in the early 15th century, drew 9.75 million viewers. The Follett film reached an audience of 6.9 million, despite competition from other popular programs.

Production has already begun on the sequels to these two books, which are scheduled to air on SAT. 1 in 2012. Meanwhile ZDF is hard at work planning an international television production of Follet’s Die Pfeiler der Macht [“A Dangerous Fortune”].

Barbara Plückhahn, who handles film licensing for Droemer Knaur, told the Börsenblatt that it’s been difficult to keep up with requests from producers for historical fiction following the success of Wanderhure. But do these adaptations actually have an impact on book sales? According to Plückhahn, a special edition of Wanderhure featuring photos from the film has sold 200,000 copies. Lübbe also reported that sales of Die Säulen der Erde nearly quadrupled after the film aired.

About the Author

Siobhan O'Leary

Siobhan O’Leary is a literary agent, translator and writer based in Berlin. She previously worked in the Foreign Rights department of the Crown Publishing Group (Random House) and at the publishing consulting firm Market Partners International.