Rights Roundup: The Frankfurt-Bound Rights World Revs Up

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From Norway, Germany, USA, Iceland, Finland, Spain, and Poland, here are writings to watch for on the run-up to Frankfurter Buchmesse.

Authors and illustrators represented in today’s Rights Roundup are, from left on the upper row, Siri Pettersen; Helga Glaesener; Bergsveinn Birgisson; and Perttu Pölönen. On the lower row, from left, are Kathryn Nikolai; Léa Le Pivert; Elena Medel; and Jakub Żulczyk

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

Film, Television, and Translation Rights
Those who are presenting newly released work during Frankfurter Buchmesse this year–October 14 to 18, and the Frankfurt Rights digital system goes live October 1—may want to know that we’ll start accepting submissions of titles that have yet to make their first international rights sales.

Normally, we prefer a title have some rights activity to report for our Rights Roundup, but of course at the major trade shows many strong works are offered for the first time. So consider us ready to learn about your key titles that are starting out as well as those with a track record.

Lena Stjernström at the Grand Agency—today presenting The Iron Wolf—tells us that September is shaping up well in her shop. “I’m glad to say we’re busy prepping for video meetings with the editors from all over the world,” she says with an eye to Frankfurt. “The sales have started good, so it’s a good sign for the fall.”

This time, we have fiction from much experienced authors as well as a debut. And we have some self-help material, including Nothing Much Happens, which is designed to help you get to sleep (without having to confess that you fell asleep on someone else’s deathless prose). Rarely do we encounter content designed to put you to sleep. In this case, it’s fine to confess that it does that.

Notice, too, that we’re starting to see more properties with listings for film and/or television development as well as translation rights. Notably this time, Jakub Żulczyk’s Warsaw thriller Blinded by the Lights, which HBO has made into a series.

As in each roundup, we use some of the promotional copy supplied to us by agents and rights directors, editing that copy to give you an idea about a book’s nature and tone. If you’d like to submit a deal to Publishing Perspectives, see the instructions at the end of this article.

You can review installments in our Rights Roundup series back to late 2017 here.


The Iron Wolf (Jernulven)

By Siri Pettersen

  • Publisher: Gyldendal Norway, Oslo
  • Rights contact: Lena Stjernström, Grand Agency, Stockholm
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – Denmark: Gyldendal
  • Czech Republic: Host
  • Finland: Art House/Jalava
  • Germany: Arctis
  • Poland: Rebis
  • Sweden: B. Wahlström

Siri Pettersen is the author of The Raven Rings and has a high profile in Norwegian fantasy.

The Iron Wolf is the first book in a new trilogy, “Vardari,” an independent series set in the same universe as The Raven Rings.

A mystery set on Norse lore, the book features “a little girl forced to forget that she saw the devil” and “a mysterious clockwork.” The “Vardari” are apparently beings who never die. The protagonist, Juva, is the child of “blood readers.”


The Legacy of Pope Joan
(Das Erbe der Päpstin)

By Helga Glaesener

  • Publisher: Aufbau, Berlin
  • Rights contact: Inka Ihmels, Aufbau Verlag
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – The Netherlands: Xander
  • Italy: Newton Compton

Inspired by Pope Joan by Donna Cross (Penguin Random House, Broadway Books, 2009),  Helga Glaesener tells a story about a girl who squares up the enemies of Pope Joan in an adventure tale that moves from Denmark to Rome and medieval Paris.

The book is compared by the publisher to Game of Thrones “but with a feminist touch”–which might be welcome to some who complained about sexism in the television series based on George RR Martin’s books. The protagonist here is Freya, her mother is kidnapped by Danish Vikings, family members are murdered and so is the “Popess,” whose death Freya investigates.

In a quick survey, we have found no fewer than 24 books on Pope Joan or Johanna, the female Holy See widely dismissed as a medieval legend by modern scholars.


Nothing Much Happens

By Kathryn Nicolai
Illustrated by Léa Le Pivert

  • Publisher: Penguin Random House USA and Canada (North American English)
  • Rights contact: Bridgette Kam, Westwood Creative Artists
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – Korean: Munhakdongne Publishing Group
  • Brazil: Sextante
  • Bulgaria: BARD Publishers
  • Catalonia: Diana / Planeta
  • China: Yuan-Liou Publishing Company
  • Czech Republic: Euromedia
  • Denmark: Gyldendal & Rosinante
  • Finland: Gummerus
  • France: Michel Lafon
  • Germany: Wunderraum
  • Israel: Yediot Aharonot Books
  • Italy: Mondadori Libri
  • Japan: Kanki Publishing
  • Netherlands: Luitingh-Sijthoff
  • Norway: Gyldendal Norsk Forlag
  • Portugal: Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial
  • Romania: Nemira
  • Russia: Eksmo
  • Serbia: Vulkan Publishing
  • Slovakia: Noxi
  • Slovenia: Mladinska Knjiga Zalozba
  • Spain: Diana / Planeta
  • Sweden: Albert Bonniers Forlag
  • Turkey: The Kitap
  • UK & Commonwealth excluding Canada: Allen & Unwin
  • Ukraine: Kraina Mriy

From that big stack of rights sales, we can assume that there are a lot of people who aren’t sleeping well in a lot of book markets.

Based on Kathryn Nicolai’s podcast of the same title, Nothing Much Happens “offers sleep-challenged adults suite of 16 charming and soothing stories that take place in and around an unnamed small fictional city.” The stories, “expose small, sweet moments of joy.”

The tales are short, requiring a few minutes each to read. The illustrations by Léa Le Pivert, according to promotional copy, evoke children’s literature. Author Nikolai, based in Michigan, is a yoga and meditation instructor. You can find her main site here and her Facebook page here.

Some of us, of course, are looking for a few titles that might help keep us awake during the monotony of the pandemic. We welcome your submissions of that kind.


Reply to a Letter From Helga

By Bergsveinn Birgisson

  • Publisher: Bjartur-Verold, Reykjavik
  • Rights contact: Trude Kolaas Immaterial Agents, Milan
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – Lithuania: Gelmes
  • Norway: Pelikanen Forlag
  • World Spanish/Spain: Lumen
  • France: Zulma
  • Denmark: C&K
  • Italy: Bompiani
  • Sweden: Bazar Forlag
  • Egypt: Al Arabi
  • Israel: Lesa Press
  • Film development: ZikZak, Iceland

The Icelandic author Bergsveinn Birgisson is called “a true researcher at heart” and has a doctorate in Norse philology and is based in Bergen, Norway. His work relates to folklore, oral histories, and lyrical poetry.

Reply to a Letter From Helga was published in 2012 and an English translation by Philip Roughton was released in 2013 by Amazon Crossing, the translation imprint of the Amazon Publishing trade house.

In the book, Bjarni has long held onto a letter from his former lover Helga, with whom he shared an illicit, impassioned love and who invited him to leave his wife and his farm and follow her to the city. Years later, as he reflects on a long and simple life shepherding in the Icelandic hills, he finally finds himself ready to answer.

“With retrospective clarity and poetic affection, Bjarni pens his Reply to a Letter from Helga, weaving a life of longing for Helga’s sensual presence and the visceral pleasures of daily exposure to the elements.”


Future Skills

By Perttu Pölönen

  • Publisher: Otava, Helsinki
  • Rights contact: Elina Ahlback Literary Agency
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – World English: Start Publishing, New York
  • South Korea: BP Publisher
  • Turkey: Büyükada
  • Audio, world English: Recorded Books, Maryland

Author Perttu Pölönen is described as a futurist, an inventor, and a motivational speaker and has studied at NASA’s Singularity University at the Ames Research Center.

His Future Skills is said to be for ” parents, educators and everybody who wants to prepare themselves for an uncertain future.”

But by that, they’re not referring to the endlessly chanted “in these uncertain times” phrase you hear in relation to the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, this book looks at the speed of development around living conditions and technologies, and suggests that “What makes us different from machines, makes us happy.”

The hopeful element of a rapidly transforming world, Pölönen suggests, is that “everything is possible.”


The Wonders
(Las maravillas)

By Elena Medel

  • Publisher: Editorial Anagrama, Barcelona
  • Rights contact: Maria Cardona, Pontas Literary & Film Agency
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – Italian: Einaudi
  • Dutch: Meridiaan Uitgevers
  • English / UK and Commonwealth excluding Canada: Pushkin Press
  • Germany: Suhrkamp
  • Greek: Patakis
  • Portuguese / Portugal: Dom Quixote

A debut, Elena Medel’s novel is called in its promotional material, a coming of age novel “in which we see how money, family and social class mark the lives of two women from different generations.

“An honest and lyrical portrayal of working-class women affected by patriarchy, plagued by the same doubt: would their lives have been different if they’d been born in another place, at another time, in another body?”

The book is set in Madrid, from the last years of the dictatorship to the present day.


Blinded by the Lights
(Ślepnąc od świate)

By Jakub Żulczyk

  • Publisher: Świat Książki, Warsaw
  • Rights contact: Renata Kasprzak, Red Rock Literary Agency
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – French: Payot&Rivages
  • World English: Legend Times Group
  • Czech Republic: Protimluv
  • Hungary: Könyvbarátunk Kiadó
  • World television and film: HBO Productions

A crime thriller about a cocaine dealer named Kuba on the “dark, electric streets of Warsaw,” Żulczyk’s novel was adapted for the 2018 HBO series of the same title, directed by Krzysztof Skonieczny.

We’ll let the trailer do the talking on this one:


Submit Rights Deals to Publishing Perspectives

Do you have rights deals to report? Agents and rights directors can use our rights deal submission form to send us the information we need. If you have questions, please send them to Porter@PublishingPerspectives.com

Titles we choose to list must have both cover images and author images available. If there’s an illustrator or translator, we’d like that person’s photo as well. The craze for black-and-white headshots ended years ago. Join us in the age of color.

In supplying these assets to us, please don’t use WeTransfer or other similar links—they may expire before we can process a submission.

In a sale listing, we require not only the language/territory into which the title has been sold but also the name of the publisher to which the title has been sold in that territory. The correct format is:

  • Country, Language or Territory: Publisher

If we have used a submission from you in the past, please do not submit that same title again to us without an explanation of why you think it deserves another submission.

We look forward to hearing from you.


More of Publishing Perspectives‘ rights roundups are here, and more from us on international rights trading is here. More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here and at the CORONAVIRUS tab at the top of each page of our site.

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.

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