Rights Edition: Aufbau’s Inka Ihmels on ‘Exchanging Ideas With Arab Publishers’

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Abu Dhabi-bound rights director Inka Ihmels of Berlin’s Aufbau Verlag is looking to learn ‘what kinds of genres work in Arab markets.’

At Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2021. Image: ADIBF

By Jarosław Adamowksi | @JaroslawAdamows

See: Our coverage of the 2022 Abu Dhabi International Book Fair and Our special Abu Dhabi International Book Fair Show Magazine

‘Several Rediscoveries and Modern Classics’
Established in 1945 and headquartered in Berlin, Aufbau Verlage is one of the most widely recognized publishing houses in Germany.

The publisher’s list includes modern classics, contemporary literature, nonfiction titles, as well as bestsellers in the world of upmarket commercial fiction.

For our article, Inka Ihmels, foreign rights manager at Aufbau Verlage, talks with Publishing Perspectives about the publishing house’s plans and objectives for this year’s Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

We begin by asking how Ihmels describes the work that Aufbau publishes, a broad program of German-language and international contemporary literature, rediscovered classics, and nonfiction books, often with strong opinions.

“There are additional imprints for extraordinary lives and love stories,” Ihmels says, as well as “opulent historical novels and suspenseful crime novels.

“Aufbau’s great successes have included several rediscoveries and modern classics. For example, Victor Klemperer’s diaries, the works of Brigitte Reimann, Werner Bräunig, Anna Seghers, and Hans Fallada.

“During the last few years, Aufbau has landed a major success with the development of the series ‘Courageous Women between Love and Art’ with several bestsellers and up to 20 rights deals for the most prominent titles. It features commercial fiction novels about the lives of extraordinary women who made history, for example: Coco Chanel, Frida Kahlo, Jane Austen, and others.”

Publishing Perspectives: What’s the current situation of your publishing business, particularly in the light of the pandemic’s impact on book publishing in many parts of the world?

Inka Ihmels

Inka Ihmels: After the first few weeks of worries and adaptation to new working and consumption processes, 2020 and 2021 were particularly successful years for print editions, but of course also for the strongly growing digital sales of ebooks and audiobooks.

The year 2022 confronts us with the paper crisis and the complications of the war in Ukraine. Because of  these concerns, we see slower sales than during the previous years.

Publishing Perspectives: Do you see book reading and publishing in the Arab world growing at this point? What’s the relationship of publishing in Germany and the Arab world today?

Inka Ihmels: I must confess that I know very little about reading and publishing in the Arab world at the moment. That’s exactly one of the reasons to attend the Abu Dhabi book fair. As I’m the only person in charge of foreign rights at Aufbau, it’s impossible for me to handle all territories with the same intensity.

I’m very much looking forward to exchanging ideas with Arab publishers, and also with readers.

Publishing Perspectives: What does Aufbau Verlage hope to achieve by participating in the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair this year? Do you have plans for programming participation with the program of this year’s guest of honor, Germany?

Inka Ihmels: I hope to establish contacts with interesting publishers in different countries of the Arab world. And I’d love to learn a lot about what kinds of genres work in their markets and what their readers like. I’m absolutely open to be participating in all kind of different formats and features that Guest of Honor Germany offers.


Our special Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2022 Show Magazine is here for your free download (PDF).

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair is here, and more on the United Arab Emirates’ market is here. More from us on book fairs and trade shows in world publishing is here. More on translation is here, and more on Arabic in the publishing world is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the world media partner of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award and the International Publishers Association. Our extended coverage of ADIBF 2022 is supported by the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

More from Publishing Perspectives on the ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is here.

About the Author

Jaroslaw Adamowski

Jaroslaw Adamowski is a freelance writer based in Warsaw, Poland. He has written for the Guardian, the Independent, the Jerusalem Post, and the Prague Post.

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