By Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief
For the past four years I have had the privilege to be a guest lecturer on international publishing at the Yale Publishing Course for mid-career and senior leaders in publishing. As part of the course, speakers are asked to give “office hours.” These start at the ungodly hour of 7:30 a.m. in the ballroom of the Omni New Haven Hotel, where the students and speakers are hosted for the week. But since so many of the participants are suffering from jet lag, perhaps the early hour works in the their favor (it did not please my seven-year-old daughter who accompanied me, not in the least!)
This year’s course saw participants from a wide variety of countries. Some as far away as Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, and China. Europe — in particular, Holland — was well represented, and several publishers from Africa signed up for the course as well.
What brought many of these “students” to Yale was the hope that at this point, there was something to learn from the speakers. I can’t personally report on what the other speakers discussed, but I can say that over lunch and during my own “office hours,” where I met with a nearly a dozen people, several themes emerged, including how to best take advantage of the opening world marketplace and cope with changing circumstances.
Sikstas Ridzevičius is the Managing Director of Flintas Publishing House in Kaunes, Lituania — a leading publisher of children’s books and educational materials in the country. He was largely concerned with how to reach a wider global marketplace for his books, many of which are activity books with a strong graphic element that transcend borders. “The books are already popular in countries like Finland, Sweden and Poland … but how do I break into Germany, France and Spain?” he asked.
Liana Suppressa, the Foreign Rights Director of Atlantyca Entertainment — the large Italian children’s publisher — had similar concerns, in so far as she was looking for strategies to make her publisher’s work more visible on the international market. “Our illustrators, for example, have a very strong reputation, but we are competing much more so on the international market against publishers everywhere, from Korea to Brazil. It is trickier every day.”
Yet another children’s publisher, Ruth Valorie Catabijan, the Business Development Manager, for Saint Matthew’s Publishing in the Philippines, sought a way to strengthen the company’s brand in the region across Asia, as well as extend the reach for their books within the country.
Others were concerned about the fluctuation of global fortunes. Rita Pinto, Managing Director of Almedina, the leading law publisher in the Portuguese language, was seeking answers about how to best approach the Brazilian marketplace, now that the country is in recession. “Though we are based in Portugal, Brazil is still our biggest market and because of the language, our opportunities are limited to expand beyond the Lusophone countries,” she reported.
Kate Hampton, an American editor who has been working with Kenya’s Kwani? Trust for the past four years, was seeking out solutions to expand interest in African writing and publishing to those in the mainstream.
And Jessica Lawrence-Hurt, International Sales and Marketing Manager for the MIT Press, wanted to know some best practices for taking orders from abroad and whether or not it was appropriate to ask for credit references from buyers in nations that have dicer financial track records. “We are also responsible for distributing a number of academic lines too,so it’s not as if it is our risk — we want to protect those we are working with as well,” she said.
Consistently I heard the refrain: we know there are opportunities out there, but the challenge is how to reach the right and most reliable people to work with. I like to think that Publishing Perspectives has a small role it can play in helping to answer these questions — in fact, our reason for being is to help create a community and a platform for communication among those who have a stake in advancing our global culture through publishing.
So, tell us, do you have any answers, advice or questions for any of the aforementioned “students”?