Rights Roundup: A 102-Book Deal With Storytel in Stockholm

In News by Porter Anderson

Today’s Rights Roundup features work originally published in German, Catalan, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, Polish, and English.

Authors and illustrators whose work is represented in today’s Rights Roundup are, clockwise from upper left, Nino Haratischwili; Miquel de Palol; Håkan Nesser (image: Jo Voets); Pirkko Saisio; Rachel Howzell Hall; Natalia De Barbaro; Thea Jacobsen; and Tinashe Williamson

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

Crime Pays
As rights transactions go, closing a 102-book deal is hardly the norm. But that’s what Lena Stjernström at Stockholm’s Grand Agency is reporting doing.

Author Anna Jansson’s series featuring police inspector Maria Wern is going through the proverbial roof, with StorySide—the publishing arm of Storytel—buying rights to translate 22 of Jansson’s titles into English, Italian, and Spanish, as well as 6 titles in Icelandic and Hebrew. The deal includes 102 translation deals overall, limited to audiobook and ebook formats.

Anna Jansson

The breakdown of the Storytel/StorySide deal looks like this:

  • English: 22 Maria Wern crime novels, plus 6 Maria Wern books digital-first
  • Italian: 22 Maria Wern crime novels, plus 6 Maria Wern books digital-first
  • Spanish: 22 Maria Wern crime novels, plus 6 Maria Wern books digital-first
  • Iceland: 6 Maria Wern crime novels, plus 3 Maria Wern books digital-first
  • Hebrew: 6 Maria Wern crime novels, plus 3 Maria Wern books digital-first

It looks as if StorySide has picked up world English rights for the United Kingdom and United States, as well—an interesting move for those who know the big footprint of Storytel’s international expansion.

Authors will be relieved to know that it’s taken Jansson more than 20 years to put together her body of work totaling more than 60 books, which include not only crime and thriller titles but also “feel good children’s books.” In her native Sweden, she’s reported to have sold at least 5 million copies, and television-series adaptations of her Maria Wern books are said to have been seen in as many as 34 territories.

Mari Wärri who heads up acquisition for Storytel is quoted, saying, “Through Storytel, a worldwide audience can now experience the thrills and suspense of Anna Jansson’s stories. Crime and detective novels constitute an extremely popular segment in our service, and also in our own publishing.

“Anna Jansson’s novels offer our readers and listeners entertainment of the highest caliber. Anna Jansson is one of the most successful authors on the Storytel platform.

“She has hit No. 1 in Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Denmark with each new title.”

Bulk buys, if you will, aren’t rare in handling Jansson’s oeuvre, Stjernström tells us.

  • Niclas Sandin’s BookBeat bought a mere 56 of them in the spring for digital publication in Germany and Poland. Victoria Vatanskaja, who handles rights and production at BookBeat, says the company’s data-tracking on reading patterns among its consumers shows that “most listeners who start a Maria Wern novel can’t stop reading it.”
  • Norway’s Cappelen Damm—here today presenting Tinashe Williamson and Thea Jacobsen’s Handbook for Young Antiracists–has acquired the full series. When they released the first title, Speechless God, in October, the book went “straight to No. 1 on the audio list,” Stjernström says. The second book, All the Tranquil Dead, is at No. 2, and the house is said to plan to release one Jansson title per month for the next two years.
  • Finland’s Gummerus has been producing Jansson’s books “since the beginning,” Stjernström says, first in print and now in digital formats. Finns have bought more than 500,000 copies of the books, and the last acquisition was a group of seven titles.
  • In Copenhagen, People’s Press has bought the Danish rights to the entire canon of Maria Wern books, as well as Jansson’s second series, the Kristoffer Bark series (yes, Bark is a detective and an inspector, too, staying out of Maria Wern’s way by working for the Örebro Police).

And a market we haven’t named yet into which the Maria Wern series has sold is Estonia, where Eesti Raamat holds the contract.

Here are some of the covers in the voluminous Maria Wern series.

And below, 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.

Lack of Light
(Das mangelnde Licht)

By Nino Haratischwili

  • Publisher: Frankfurter Verlagsanstalt (releasing in March)
  • Rights contact: Nadya Hartmann, Frankfurter Verlagsanstalt
  • Book info: Read more here (PDF)

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – Italy: Marsilio
  • The Netherlands: Meridiaan
  • Poland: Otwarte
  • Georgia: Intelekti
  • Czech Republic: HOST (includes World
  • World English Rights: An undisclosed American publisher

Lack of Light, the new novel by author Nino Haratischwili [you may know her family saga, The Eighth Life (of Brilka)] is the story of a lost land and a lost generation; of a revolution that devours its children; of a friendship that defies death; of phantom pain, a battle with oneself and the world, a struggle with fate.

“It is also a homage to Georgia, the city of Tbilisi, and its people–a declaration of love across the ages.”

Haratischwili is a native of Tbilisi, today based in Berlin. She’s a playwright, a theater director, and a novelist. Her novel The Cat and the General was shortlisted for the 2019 German Book Prize.

The Garden of the Seven Twilights
(El jardí dels set crepuscles)

By Miquel de Palol

  • Publisher: Columna (Planeta), Barcelona
  • Rights contact: Carles Masdeu, Agencia Literaria Carmen Balcells
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – World English: Dalkey Archive (being relaunched in 2022 by Deep Vellum)
  • Spanish: Anagrama
  • France: Zulma
  • Italian: Einaudi
  • German: Aufbau
  • Dutch: Menken, Kasander & Wigman

“Barcelona 2024. As Europe is devastated by an atomic war, a small group of people—all of them members of the Catalan high bourgeoisie—manage to flee and go into hiding near de Pyrenees.

“Here they take refuge in a strange castle hidden in a rock and surrounded by a magic garden. In this castle there’s an atmosphere of excessive and fantastic luxury, the perfect place in which to escape the specter of the war by telling stories.”

The original publication was in 1989, at 755 pages.

The Last Days and Death of a Scribe

By Håkan Nesser

  • Publisher: Albert Bonniers Förlag, Stockholm
  • Rights contact: Elisabet Brännströ, Bonnier Rights
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – Italian: Guanda
  • Czech: MOBA
  • Danish: Modtryk
  • Finnish: Tammi
  • German: BTB
  • Norwegian: Gyldendal Norsk
  • Polish: Czarna Owca

“Detective inspector Gunnar Barbarotti is back in the seventh installment of the Barbarotti series, reported to have sold as many as 1 million copies.

“‘A Writer’s Last Days and Death’ is the title of an unfinished short manuscript by the almost successful author Franz J Lunde. The text appears to be an eerie description of Lunde’s own experiences during the autumn of 2019, and after making the rounds, the manuscript lands on Gunnar Barbarotti’s table.”

‘The Red Book of Farewells’ is the third installment in Pirkko Saisio’s ‘Autofictional Trilogy’

Autofictional Trilogy

By Pirkko Saisio

  • Publisher: WSOY, Helsinki
  • Rights contact: Urte, Helsinki Literary Agency
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – The Netherlands: De Geus
  • North America: Two Lines Press (Book 3 in the trilogy)
  • Hungary: Polar (Books 2 and 3 in the trilogy)

The Autofictional Trilogy comprises:

  • #1 The Lowest Common Multiple
  • #2 The Backlight
  • #3 The Red Book of Farewells

“Pirkko Saisio is a true cultural icon in Finland. As De Geus’ editor Jacoba Casier has said, “Her style and composition are so personal and original, and the subjects she touches—feminism, class, gender, sexuality—and the way she treats them is of an overwhelming sharpness and relevance in our current times.

“We can only admire her talent, her courage, her intelligence, and her literary value. This is an author who urgently deserves to be published and read by as many readers as possible.”

Handbook for Young Antiracists
(Håndbok for unge antirasister)

By Tinashe Williamson
Illustrated by Thea Jacobsen

  • Publisher: Cappelen Damm, Oslo
  • Rights contact: Ingvild Haugland Blatt, Cappelen Damm Agency
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – Germany: S. Fischer Verlage
  • Finland: Otava Publishing Company
  • Denmark: Offer received

“Handbook for Young Antiracists by Tinashe Willamson with Thea Jacobsen’s illustrations puts the spotlight on the important topic of racism.

“In 10 chapters and with 10 fictional characters, Williamson answers questions about what racism really is, why representation is important, and what you can do if someone is discriminated against because of the color of their skin.

“Racism is a complicated topic for grownups to navigate, and many find it hard to talk to their children about it.” This book offers a starting point for the conversation.

Kind Companion

By Natalia De Barbaro

  • Publisher: Agora, Warsaw
  • Rights contact: Piotr Wawrzeńczyk at Book/lab Literary Agency (piotr@literatura.com.pl)
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – Russia: Eksmo
  • Croatia: Poetika

“This book is all about finding a route back into our inner core truth. Trapped in roles imposed on us by customs and communities, we’re afraid to break out of this cursed, vicious circle. We choose stagnation instead of rejection.

“Personal and professional development are not all about avoiding mistakes. Natalia de Barbaro’s book will help you see how to wisely make use of female intuition and rediscover your own inner ‘kind companion.’

These Toxic Things 

By Rachel Howzell Hall

  • Publisher: Thomas & Mercer, Amazon Publishing, Seattle
  • Rights contact: Hatty Stiles, Amazon Publishing
  • Book info: Read more here

No reported rights sales to date.

This is “the latest suspense novel from Rachel Howzell Hall, a New York Times bestselling author and nominee of an Anthony, ITW award, and Lefty Award. These Toxic Things has had starred reviews from Booklist and Publishers Weekly, as well as reviews in NPR, the Los Angeles Times, and the Guardian. It was also selected for People Magazine’s Best Books of Fall list .

“Mickie Lambert creates ‘digital scrapbooks’ for clients, ensuring that precious souvenirs aren’t forgotten or lost. When her latest client, curio shop owner Nadia Denham, dies in an apparent suicide, Mickie honors the old woman’s last wish and begins curating her peculiar objets d’art. A music box, a hair clip, a key chain. But these tokens mean a lot to someone else, too. Mickie has been receiving threatening messages to leave Nadia’s past alone.”

Submitting 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

Getting images to us. Please don’t send us images by Google Drive if the system will require us to ask your permission to retrieve those images. (It can take too long for our deadlines before that permission request reaches you.) Likewise, please don’t send us images by WeTransfer or a similar service. (Those expire, often before we can download your material.) If for some reason you cannot get images into our submission form, feel free to just drop them to us in an email (Porter@PublishingPerspectives.com) or in a Dropbox folder (non-expiring access) and send us a link to that folder in the submission form.

Categories. We get more submissions in children’s books than in others, and while we enjoy children’s books in the industry as much as anyone–please do keep sending them–we’d also like to see more of the following to help us balance our roundups:

  • Adult Fiction
  • Adult Nonfiction – particularly narrative nonfiction, political, historical, biographical, memoir, and philosophical categories
  • Young Adult

Repeat submissions. We receive great submissions from many parts of the world and once we’ve carried a title, we’d like to give other work a chance to be featured rather than repeating that title–unless there’s major news developing around that previously used title that makes it a good candidate for a second listing. If one of your titles has previously appeared in our Rights Roundups but there’s a good reason you think it should be listed again, please be sure to drop us an email and let us know (Porter@PublishingPerspectives.com).

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.

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 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.