Rights Roundup: Nine for the Bologna Season, Led by a ‘New Neopolitan’

In News by Porter Anderson

From Finland by way of Kosovo, as well as the UK, Israel, Nigeria, Sweden, Spain, and the United States, the writers of our rights roundup are producing thrillers, politically tinged literary fiction, memoir, comedic drama and, of course, children’s stories.

2018 Bologna Book Fair. Image: Hannah Johnson

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

At Bologna: The Very Latest ‘Wimpy Kid’ License
With Bologna International Children’s Book Fair in full sway, we can do no less than bow to Signore Greg Heffley, the kid of Jeff Kinney’s remarkably successful Diary of a Wimpy Kid series—and let that amazing property lead our rights roundup.

Already available in 56 translations, 65 editions, and with 200 million copies sold worldwide, the series was announced on Monday (March 26) to have been translated by Francesco Durante into Neopolitan as ‘O Diario ‘e nu Maccarone.

The new edition is to be released on May 10 during Torino’s annual book fair, the Salone Internazionale del Libro (May 10 to 19). To the south, Naples is to throw a day of special events, too, to welcome one of the world’s most reliable children’s-book juggernauts.

Paola Malgrati (with whom we spoke last year) made the announcement from the independent publisher Il Castore—Stand A31 in Pavilion 25 at Bologna—and she points out that Neopolitan is recognized by UNESCO as an endangered language (not a dialect) in a world of increasingly homogenized vocabularies.

Translator Francesco Durante

Wimpy Kid, then, becomes part of a project in which literary works are being translated into Neopolitan to try to capture its nature and nuances permanently. Also of interest: Naples is only the world’s fifth city for residents of Neopolitan origin. The first is São Paolo, followed by Buenos Aires, Rio, and Sidney.

So, with the Kid already translated into Latin and Italian and now sounding like a scugnizzo in Naples, we’re ready to turn to more news of springtime rights successes.

As always, we appreciate agents and rights directors providing us with their deals information, and we’ll put together more rights roundups with more deals going forward. Once again, it’s the promotional copy supplied to us by agents and rights directors we’re editing here to give you an idea about a book’s nature and tone.

And if you’d like to submit a deal to Publishing Perspectives, see the instructions at the end of this article.


The Guardian Angel (PDF) by Arto Halonen and Kevin Frazier
Publisher: WSOY, Finland (March 15)
Rights contact: Elina Ahlback, Ahlback Literary Agency, Helsinki
Reported rights sales:

  • Denmark: Hr. Ferdinand
  • Italy: Edizioni Piemme
  • Serbia: Vulkan
  • Portugal: Grupo Planeta

Arto Halonen is a film director and screenwriter known for socially relevant work. Kevin Frazier is a novelist, essayist, and critic. The two men have collaborated before, on Shadow of the Holy Book.

A film treatment of The Guardian Angel is to be released this year features Pilou Asback (Game of Thrones), Josh Lucas (A Beautiful Mind), and Rade Serbedzija (Downton Abbey). Film distribution is said to be set for France, Denmark, Finland, Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Poland, India, China, Japan, South Korea, and the Middle East.

In 1951, Palle Hardrup, a former Nazi collaborator recently released from prison, walks into a bank in Copenhagen, demands money, shoots two employees dead, and is apprehended. But what’s left is a curious case in which Hardrup may have been operating under hypnosis. Reportedly, the thriller is based on a true incident.


Staying On by CM Taylor
Publisher: Duckworth Overlook, London
Rights contact: David Haviland, the Lownie Agency
Reported rights sales:

  • English UK, Europe, Commonwealth, excluding Canada: Duckworth Overlook, London

Scheduled to be published in July, Staying On is described as a comedy-drama about an expatriate family crushed by bereavement, while struggling with the consequences of Brexit.

The author, Craig Taylor, is an associate lecturer at Oxford International Center for Publishing Studies and is the author of Premiership Psycho and Group of Death, both published by Corsair.


Kaspion the Little Fish, written and illustrated by the late Paul Kor
Publisher: Kinneret Publishing House
Rights contact: Stephanie Barrouillet, S.B. Rights Agency, Tel Aviv
Reported rights sales:

  • World English: Dial Books for Young Readers
  • France: Pastel
  • Germany: Herder Verlag
  • Spain (Spanish): Editorial Obelisco
  • Spain (Catalan): Editorial Obelisco
  • South Korea: DD Stone Publishing
  • China: Shanghai Dook Publishing
  • Taiwan: Ye-ren Publishing House

Kaspion the Little Fish is an Israeli classic for children, originally published in 1990, Associated titles are Kaspion, Beware and Kaspion’s Great Adventure.

Kaspion, who is also known as “Flash” in English, has shiny shades of silver and “dashes through the waves lie a streak of lightning,” according to promotional copy for the book.

“His family swims all together but Kaspion prefers to explore on his own. One day he comes across a big block. Could it be a mountain? But mountains don’t have eyes or teeth! It’s a baby whale who got lost in the ocean, and Kaspion has come to the rescue, creating an everlasting story of friendship, coming-of-age, and thirst for adventure–with silver foil on all the little fish to create a dazzling effect. ”


Finnish cover

Heartlines (Tiranan sydän) by Pajtim Statovci
Publisher: Otava, Helsinki
Rights contact: Julia Angelin, Salomonsson Agency, Stockholm
Reported rights sales:

  • Finland: Otava
  • Germany: Btb
  • Italy: Sellerio
  • Norway: Gyldendal
  • Sweden: Norstedts
  • UK: Pushkin Press
  • US: Pantheon

A winner of Finland’s Toisinkoinen Literature Prize, Pajtim Statovci’s story is set in post-Communist Albania, where life is “akin to imprisonment for the inseparable young friends Bujar and Agim. While Bujar struggles to come to terms with the loss of his father, Agim is facing new realizations about his gender, sexuality, and feelings for Bujar.

“Shame, guilt, and the ruins of Enver Hoxha’s authoritarianism push Bujar and Akim to leave everything behind and flee to Italy. But the unfamiliar new life of an immigrant and asylum seeker caught in a foreign country, language, and even body, begins to seem like nothing more than a dead end. The burning desire to be seen and heard spurs a desperate search for another story, another nationality, another past. A different self to be seized at any cost.”

Kosovo-born Patjtim Statovci‘s first book is My Cat Yugoslavia.


The Hundred Wells of Salaga by Ayesha Harruna Attah
Publisher: Cassava Republic, Lagos, London
Rights contact: Marina Penalva, Pontas Literary & Film Agency, Barcelona
Reported rights sales:”

  • Germany: Diana Verlag/Random House

“A novel set in pre-colonial Ghana, The Hundred Wells of Salaga is told from the perspective of two courageous women from two different tribes. It looks at how their lives and fates are affected by the slave trade in the region at the end of the 19th century.

“The book offers a new and different point of view of West African slavery through the experiences of two fearless and forward-thinking women, both of whom dream of changing the status quo.”

Salaga is the city in which the biggest slave trade market in pre-colonial Ghana was located.


The Astonishing Color of After by Emily XR Pan
Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers
Rights contact: Lauren E. Abramo, Dystal, Goderich and Bourret, New York City
Reported rights sales:

  • US: Little, Brown Young Readers
  • Serbia: Vulkan
  • Brazil: Universos dos Livros

“A heartbreaking debut novel about grief, love, and family,” The Astonishing Color of After is said to be especially apt for fans of Jandy Nelson and Celeste Ng.

In the book, Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother committed suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half-Asian and half-white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she’s determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.


Let’s Hope for the Best (Låt oss hoppas på det bästa) by Carolina Setterwall
Publisher: Albert Bonniers Förlag
Rights contact: Astri von Arbin Ahlander, Ahlander Agency, Stockholm
Reported rights sales:

  • Spain/Catalan: Editorial Empúries
  • Czech Republic: Albatros / Kniha Zlin
  • Denmark: C&K
  • Finland: Otava
  • Germany: Kiepenheuer & Witsch
  • Greece: Metaixmio
  • Iceland: Benedikt
  • Italy: Mondadori
  • Lithuania: Baltos Lankos
  • Netherlands: Ambo Anthos
  • Norway: Aschehoug
  • Poland: Zysk
  • Romania: Trei
  • Serbia: Laguna
  • Slovakia: Albatros
  • Spain/Spanish: Siex Barral
  • Sweden: Albert Bonniers Förlag
  • UK: Bloomsbury
  • US: Little, Brown

Let Us Hope For The Best is “both a wrenching story of surviving grief and a bubbling love chronicle of our modern age.”

Debut writer Carolina Setterwall tells the story of falling in love with the complicated and irresistible Aksel–the longing, pain, and triumph of hobbling together a relationship and a life in the throws of  high-speed urban life. Interspliced with these intoxicating musings are the excruciating months after finding Aksel dead in bed one morning and, as a 36-year-old widow and single mother, putting the pieces of herself and her life back together again.

Told in interweaving narratives that count down to one volcanic moment, Let’s Us Hope For The Best sold in 16 territories within two weeks of submission.


Ordesa by Manuel Vilas
Publisher: Alfaguara
Rights contact: Sandra Pareja, Casanovas & Lynch Literary Agency, Barcelona
Reported rights sales:

  • Italy: Guanda (pre-empt)
  • France: Éditions du Sous-sol
  • Portugal: Penguin Random House (at auction)
  • Poland: Offer

Ordesa, which takes its name from the small Spanish town below the Pyrenees, is the autobiographical novel of a 50-year-old ordinary man returning to the place he was born. It’s also where his parents recently ahve died of cancer.

“Facing a divorce, his apathetic children, his decision to go sober, and a waning career, the ghosts of his family besiege him but also bring him love and light.

Out of helplessness and dispair, he writes this chronicle, this hommage, this memoir of his family that’s his but could be anyone’s: grandparents whose photos were never taken and whose funerals were never attended, parents with their contagious idiosyncrasies and an inability to physically manifest their love for their kin.

“Without sugarcoating the darker times, the narrator exudes pure love for the most intimate relationships to be experienced in a lifetime. Perhaps the tragedy of life itself is not death, but truly realizing the importance of your parents only once they’ve passed.”

Clockwise from upper left, authors whose work is represented in our rights roundup include Carolina Setterva, Kevin Frazier, Arto Halonen, Pajtim Statovci, Ayesah Harruna Attah, Jeff Kinney, Manuel Vilas, Paul Kor, Emilyl XR Pan, and CM Taylor. Jeff Kinney’s image: Filip Wollak


Submit Rights Deals to Publishing Perspectives

Do you have rights deals to report? Agents and rights directors, send an email to Porter@PublishingPerspectives.com including the following information:

  • Name of Book (with a link to its page on your agency’s or publishers’ site)
  • Name of Author
  • Original Publisher
  • Name of agent or rights director
  • Name of agency or publisher and in what city it’s located
  • Territory/Language and publisher to which you’ve sold the rights in this format: Country: Publisher
  • Previously sold rights, if any (territory and publisher)
  • Cover image, if available, of the book
  • Author image, if available
  • Descriptive copy about the book from your listings

More of Publishing Perspectives’ rights roundups are here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.