Rights Roundup: Post-Bologna Rights Deals for Adults

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Following the robust turnout and programming at Bologna Children’s Book Fair, Rights Roundup looks at some work for the adult market.

At the Greek Pavilion at Bologna Children’s Book Fair, the Market of Honor nation this year in the Bologna Book Plus programming suite. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

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

A Boisterous Bologna
It’s safe for you adults (and your books) to come out again.

Even though Bologna Children’s Book Fair under Elena Pasoli‘s expert direction is determinedly widening its purview with the Bologna Book Plus programming led by Jacks Thomas—bringing in a far more generalist portfolio of programming—Bologna is still, of course, the world’s most influential and unmissable trade shows in young people’s content. And this year’s show proved it, the halls at BolognaFiere exploding with the color and whimsy and energy of kids’ literature from so many parts of the world.

Here, near the anticipated end of the still-ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, the show reached a formidable dynamic of very upbeat drive, the aisles at times becoming truly impassable with the crows of trade visitors and illustrators. Our roundup of some of the numbers, in case you missed it, is here for you. The total 28,894 professional visitors whose bar codes were flashed by the folks at the entrance came very close to pre-pandemic levels.

The 1,456 exhibitors figure actually is a record. It’s some 36 more exhibitors than were on the floor(s) of the show in the biggest year previously for exhibitors, 2019.

Meanwhile, we’d like to know your thinking. The topic discussed at many points during Bologna’s big week was how the growing presence of Bologna Book Plus is working alongside the 60-year heritage of this trade show as an international leader among book publishing’s biggest conclaves.

It was the Plus program, in fact, that produced the Market of Honor Greece element, with some of the liveliest illustration work in the show and a grand industry-level “return,” if you will, to the international show scene for a country that has weathered severe difficulties with remarkable, brave resilience.

We should mention that Nopi Chatzigeorgiou, who coordinates the Thessaloniki Book Fair (Greece’s national show) through the Hellenic Foundation for Culture, was one of the key people behind the success of the Greek effort as well as a faithful audience member at many of the Bologna Book Plus programs of the week.

And if you’d like to share a thought about this new and interesting merger of the traditional children’s emphasis and some more general-publishing elements with us–an unusual level of integration and expansion for such efforts–we’d be glad to hear what you think. You can drop a line to Porter@PublishingPerspectives.com, or just drop a note in the comments section below.

Meanwhile, we’re starting today with an adult face on the cover of an adult book: From Giunti Editore’s LeeAnn Bortolussi, it’s Carlo Vecce’s new and deeply researched examination of the mother of Leonardo da Vinci.

So you see? The moms are back in the drivers’ seats in Italy.

And you’ll find at the end of this article, a compilation of our Bologna-related stories, in case you’d like to review some of our coverage.

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

The Smile of Caterina, Mother of Leonardo
(Il sorriso di Caterina, la madre di Leonardo)

By Carlo Vecce

  • Publisher: Giunti Editore, Firenze
  • Rights contact: LeeAnn Bortolussi, Giunti Editore
  • Book info: Read more here

Rights sales are to be reported from the publisher, as deals are made following the presentation of the book at an international press conference this week. Bortolussi at Giunti reports that offers and pre-empts are arriving from an especially broad geographical pool of interest for the book.

This book has just been presented to the world this week, on Tuesday (March 14), with a news conference in Florence.

Carlo Vecce

“Carlo Vecce has written the story of the mother of Leonardo da Vinci. The author presents scientific discoveries, documents that show us the origins of Leonardo, in a novel giving—according to Elisabetta Povoledo, who covered for The New York Times this week, ‘identities, faces, and passion to characters and elements that are absent from scholarly accounts … the research is sound.’

“Vecce, writes Povoledo, “has “shown Leonardo to be a universal man who doesn’t belong to one civilization, one country.'”

From the publisher’s descriptive copy: “Captured at the Tana, the last Venetian colony at the mouth of the Don, she begins an incredible journey through the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. … Understanding that hers is not the story of a distant and fabulous past. It is today’s story: of a foreigner on the lowest rung of the social and human ladder, of a woman who got off a boat and came from who knows where, without a voice or dignity. That’s why it needs to be told.”

One Hundred Guinea Pigs
(Cien cuyes)

By Gustavo Rodríguez

  • Publisher: Alfaguara, Madrid
  • Rights contact: Anna Soler-Pont, Pontas Literary & Film Agency
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – World English: Charco Press
  • French: Éditions de l’Observatoire
  • Italian: Bompiani

Gustavo Rodríguez

“Winner of the 2023 Alfaguara Novel Prize, this tragicomic novel follows Eufrasia, a woman pressed by economic needs who works as a caregiver for wealthy elderly people in contemporary Lima and dreams of raising enough money to start a new life.

“The lives of the people she cares for are drowned in medication, bland meals, ailments, and their end is ever-present.

“Eufrasia knows this, but her relationship to them will end up bringing her to a crossroads.”

Gustavo Rodríguez, from Lima, “has published, among other titles, the novels La furia de AquilesLa risa de tu madre (Herralde Novel Prize Finalist) and La semana tiene siete mujeres (Planeta-Casamérica Prize Finalist). He has also written children’s and YA books that are read in schools throughout South America.”

Tea for Ghosts
(Du thé pour les fantômes)

By Chris Vuklisevic

  • Publisher: Editions Denoël, Paris
  • Rights contact: Margherita Giubelli Bortolami, Editions Denoël
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – Deals are being signed for Germany and Spain; inquire with Margherita Bortolami
  • Italy: Rizzoli in a pre-empt
  • The Netherlands: Xander in a pre-empt
  • Denmark: Gronningen1 in a pre-empt

Chris Vuklisevic

“Agonie is a witch and her sister Félicité helps ferry ghosts from one world to the next.

“They haven’t spoken to each other in thirty years, until their mother’s death reunites them. They must locate her ghost and gather her last words, retracing the past of a woman who loved Félicité and rejected Agonie.

“But the ghost of their mother cannot be found, and the witnesses to her life, dead or alive, draw a strange, even contradictory portrait of her.

“What did she want to reveal before she died? Who was this fragmented, multiple woman?

“Their quest for the truth will take them from the narrow streets of Nice to the desert of Almería, from the Valley of Wonders to Provençal villages, and into the depths of familial silence.”

Is Mother Dead

By Vigdis Hjorth

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

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – Turkey: Siren Yainlari
  • Denmark: Turbine
  • Finland: Schildts & Söderström
  • France: Actes Sud
  • Greece: Potamos Publishers
  • Croatia: Naklada Ljevak
  • Poland: Glowbook
  • Russia: Eksmo
  • Serbia: STRIK
  • United States, United Kingdom English: Verso Books
  • Sweden: Natur & Kultur
  • Germany: S. Fischer Verlag
  • Hungary: Polar
  • Brazil: Grupo HarperCollins Brasil

Vigdis Hjorth

As Publishing Perspectives readers will realize, this is a book we included in our report this week for being longlisted for the 2023 International Booker Prize, in its translation to English by Charlotte Barslund.

“Johanna, an artist, has spent three decades living in the United States with her husband and their son. After her husband dies, Johanna returns to her native Norway.

“What remains of the life Johanna left behind in Norway, several decades ago? Is Mother Dead is a story about the most fundamental longings and disappointments of our lives.  Longlisted for the International Booker Prize

Norway’s Vigdis Hjorth has won awards including the Gyldendal Prize in 2011, the Critics Award in 2012, The Honorary Brage Award and the Amalie Skram Award in 2014, The Aschehoug Award in 2015, and the Booksellers Prize in 2016. Her books have been published in Sweden, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Bulgaria, Iceland, The Netherlands, Russia, Finland, Poland, and Ukraine.

The Aquatic Ones
(Les Aquatiques)

By Osvalde Lewat

  • Publisher: Les Escales, Saint-Nazaire
  • Rights contact: Marleen Seegers, 2 Seas Agency
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – Germany: InterKontinental

“A powerful debut novel by Osvalde Lewat, a renowned documentary filmmaker.

Osvalde Lewat

The Aquatic Ones is a striking story leading to a new vision of the French-speaking African societies today. Les Aquatiques is set in a fictional African country and tells the coming of age story of Katme.

“She is a woman in her early 40s, married to a local politician whose life will be turned upside down when her husband’s political ambitions collide with her personal life: Her best friend, Samy, an artist whom she subsidizes, is gay and will be thrown into jail because of her and her husband.

“The consequences are devastating for Samy and for Katme. Les Aquatiques is a universal story of how this woman has to reinvent herself and how she’ll face up to the challenges life offers her. … It is also a picture of modern-day Africa, and struggles for a more just society.”

The Aquatics has won the Prix Kourouma, the Grand Prix panafricain de littérature, and the Prix du rayonnement de la langue et de la littérature françaises décerné par l’académie française.

The Perfect Daughter
(La hija ejemplar)

By Federico Axat

  • Publisher: Planeta/Ediciones Destino, Barcelona
  • Rights contact: Maria Cardona, Aevitas Creative Management UK
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – Danish: DreamLitt
  • Catalan: Columna
  • German: Luchterhand
  • Russian: Sindbad

“When a sex tape goes viral in high school, Sophia leads a massive demonstration against the school and its principal.

“Soon after, she vanishes.

Federico Axat

“Days later, the boy accused of recording and leaking the video is killed.

Now I know that evil lurks where you least expect it, and that the places where you thought you were safest can turn out to be the most dangerous.’  This is the last thing Sophia wrote in her diary, almost a year ago. Since then, no one has heard from her, although the evidence suggests that she took her own life by throwing herself off a bridge and that the fact is related to a lurid video that went viral at the institute.

“Her parents refuse to believe it. Her daughter is not the kind of person who would do something like that. When months later the boy who recorded it appears to have been killed by a hammer’s blow to the head, there are those who dare to think that perhaps Sophia is alive and that her disappearance is part of a plan that she herself has put into motion.”

Federico Axat is a native of Buenos Aires, an engineer and the author of several novels. Commended by his countryman, the author Javier Casillo, Axat’s translation rights have sold to 35 publishers.

More of Publishing Perspectives‘ rights roundups are here, and more from us on international rights trading is here.

Submitting Rights Deals to Publishing Perspectives

Do you have rights deals to report? Agents and publishing-house 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

We look forward to hearing from you.

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.