Rights Deals: Québec Books Generating International Interest, Sales

In Feature Articles by Olivia Snaije

From the French-language part of Frankfurt’s Guest of Honor Canada, Québec-based publishers report on books finding homes abroad. (Sponsored)

Québec publishers’ stand in Hall 4.1 at Frankfurter Buchmesse. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Johannes Minkus

By Olivia Snaije | @OliviaSnaije

Full Schedule, Busy LitAg
Although everyone agrees that this year’s Frankfurter Buchmesse is special, rights sales are going ahead as usual, with a busy Literary Agents and Scouts Center (LitAg) and international publishers saying they have full schedules.

At the Québec stand Alexandra Valiquette, rights and acquisition editor for Québec Amérique has seen interest in two literary titles in particular.

  • Author, poet, and publisher Rodney Saint-Eloi’s Quand il fait triste Bertha chante (When things are sad, Bertha Sings) is a tribute to his mother, Bertha, and tells a story of growing up under dictatorship and his dreams of becoming a writer. Published in 2020, the title was sold to French publisher Heloise d’Ormesson, and Valiquette concluded an agreement on Wednesday with a small German publisher.
  • There also has been interest in a book by Arianne Bessette, Les Heures Parallèles (Parallel Hours), said Valiquette. The novel is about domestic violence and how two neighbors, Bill and Marion, help each other deal with the violence that’s part of their lives.

Marleen Seegers of 2 Seas Agency sells world translation rights for Québec publisher Lux, and translation rights for France, Germany, the Netherlands, English-language territories except Canada, Scandinavia, and Italy for Québec publisher XYZ, an imprint of Distribution HMH.

Seegers says there was a lot of buzz around First Nation author Natasha Kanapé Fontaine’s Nauetakuan, un silence pour un bruit (Silence for Sound), which is to be published in Canada in November 2021 by XYZ. Fontaine is a poet, actress, visual artist, and activist, and this is her debut novel, about a First Nation artist exploring her heritage and roots.

With Lux, which publishes authors from Québec and elsewhere, a title generating interest is a new edition of a book first published in the 1980s by the late French author Francoise Ega, Lettres à une noire (Letters to a Black Woman).

With a new preface by French philosopher Elsa Dorlin, this socio-historical account follows Ega’s arrival in France from Martinique in the 1960s and her experience working as a maid for a bourgeois family in a reflection on modern-day slavery. So far, Seegers says, she has sold rights to Todavia in Brazil.

Mariève Talbot, president of La Courte Échelle group, is in Frankfurt selling rights at the Québec stand in Hall 4.1.

The company’s elegantly designed Nightfall series for middle-grade readers is gaining international interest and will appear with Italy’s Edizioni EL and the Polish Polarny Lis. The books include crime, mystery, suspense, and horror.

In the adult La Mêche imprint, two books in the fictionalized memoir genre are getting particular interest.

  • Burgundy, by Mélanie Michaud, sold to JC Lattès in France in a three-way bid and is about a poverty-stricken Montréal neighborhood in which a resilient character, Mélanie, finds her way with humor.
  • Y avait-il des limites si oui je les ai franchies mais par amour OK ? (Were There Limits If So I Crossed Them But It Was Out of Love OK?) by Michelle Lapierre-Dallaire, is a highly personal account of seeing beyond the experience of abuse and trauma.

Both books tackle rough subjects, said Talbot, but they are equally about resilience.

More from Publishing Perspectives on Frankfurter Buchmesse is here and see our special highlights page for events to consider. More from us on the rights trade in international publishing is here.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Olivia Snaije

Olivia Snaije is a journalist and editor based in Paris who writes about translation, literature, graphic novels, the Middle East, and multiculturalism. She is the author of three books and has contributed to newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, The Global Post, and The New York Times.