Italy’s Translation Sales Ruled by Kids’ Books: Rights Roundup

In News by Porter Anderson

Submissions for this Rights Roundup come from Spain, Sweden, Finland, the United Kingdom, Greece, and Switzerland.

One-on-one meetings in the rights trading center produced by the AIE in collaboration with Aldus Up at the 2023 Più libri più liberi in Rome. Image for Publishing Perspectives: AIE

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

See alsoItaly: Più Libri Più Liberi Opens Today in a ‘Stable Market’

Italy’s 2022 Rights Sales: 35 Percent Kids’ and YA Titles
Of all the growing rights-sales power that the Frankfurter Buchmesse 2024 Guest of Honor Italy is displaying this week, the largest portion of what that market sells into international territories and languages is in children’s and young-adult books.

In 2022, in fact, those kids’ and young adults’ books came to 2,744 titles or 35 percent of the total body of 7,889 books’ rights contracts.

As the chart below proves, those bambini and ragazzi are big business in the Italian rights market:

In the Italian market’s rights trade in 2022, children’s and YA books topped the list of what was sold into other languages and territories, amounting to a commanding 35 percent of those offshore rights sales. Image: AIE, Nielsen BookScan

This week at Più libri più liberi, the publishers’ association’s annual book fair in Rome, it’s been announced that 42 percent of that children’s trade was signed by the focus of the Più libri più liberi: small- and medium-sized publishers.

The rights center has just closed in the soaring La Nuvola venue for the fair, and that rights center is what the Association of Italian Publishers (Associazione Italiana Editori, AIE) has dubbed il prima tappa verso Francoforte 24—the first stop on the way to Frankfurt 2024.

Notice on the chart above what follows children’s and YA when Italian publishers, rights directors, and agents sit down across the tables from their international rights-trade colleagues: nonfiction. After kids’ books in Italian, the market’s strongest sector of exported rights is in nonfiction, at 25 percent of the overall trade in 2022, or 1,992 titles. And that doesn’t include manuals and self-help, which came in last year at 9 percent. Fiction held 19 percent of the sold-offshore rights trades (1,496 contracts), comics books stood at 5 percent.

In-country, the previously booming allure of comics seems to have subsided, dropping by 13 percent in the previous year. But perhaps a big surprise here is in illustrati, the illustrated books that stood in 2022 at just 2 percent of the rights sales sold to other languages and into other territories. You’d think that with children’s and young people’s titles being so strong, the illustrated books would be part of this, but it seems not to be so. (And of course all illustrated work is hardly for kids, as anyone who regularly makes the trip to Elena Pasoli‘s Bologna Children’s Book Fair will tell you.

And where are the rights sales from Italy taking all these books?

On the left, languages into which books are being translated from Italian in rights sales. On the right, the languages from which books are coming into the Italian market in translation rights buys. All figures are from 2022. Image: AIE, Nielsen BookScan

Europe dominates with 62 percent of contracts, followed by Asia (18 percent), South and Central America (6 percent), the Middle East (5 percent), Africa (4 percent), North America (3 percent), and the Pacific (2 percent).

In Europe, the top outlet country is Spain with 1,044 contracts, followed by France (529), Poland (481), Greece (374), Germany (273), Russia (256), Portugal (214), the Netherlands (152), the United Kingdom (142), and Slovakia (137).

The countries of the Balkan Peninsula, all together, bought Italian books at the rate of 687 contracts in 2022. And 136 contracts were signed with Bulgaria, 118 with Slovenia, 106 with Romania.

In contrast, the top ten source languages of books published in translation are English, French, German, Japanese, Spanish, Korean, Swedish, Chinese, Dutch and Portuguese. Italy, like other continental European countries, suffers from a strong imbalance compared to the English-speaking area: in 2022, 6,027 translation rights, 64 percent of the total, were purchased from the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and 645, 8 percent of the total, were sold.

We’ll have more from this year’s Più libri più liberi as data is evaluated from this year’s fair, which closes on Sunday (December 10).


How To Fit All of Ancient Greece Into an Elevator
By Ted Papakostas
Illustrated by Lawrence Elwick

  • Publisher: Key Books, Athens
  • Rights contact: Avgi Daferera, Ersilia Literary Agency
  • Book info: Read more here

No rights sales listed as yet.

Archeologist Ted Papakostas, left, with illustrator Lawrence Elwick

Evangelia Avloniti, the founding agent at Ersilia Literary Agency, says that Papakostas’ book, with Lawrence Elwick’s illustrations, was published on June 29 by Key Books, and has already had at least seven print runs. It’s based on Papakostas’ grown-up book, Can All Antiquity Fit Into an Elevator?—which reportedly has been sold into 16 languages so far.

This edition is aimed at children and can give young readers an idea about archeology as they read.

Papakostas, an archeologist from Thessaloniki, took his BA and MA at the Universities of Reading and Nottingham in England, and has worked on excavations in Greece and Britain. His PhD in archeology is from Aristotle University.


This Is a Window
By Lauren Paige Conrad

  • Publisher: Minerva, London (Astra Books for Young Readers)
  • Rights contact: Marleen Seegers, 2 Seas Agency
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Turkiye: Koç Üniversitesi Yayınları

Lauren Paige Conrad

Scheduled for publication in April, this is a rhyming picture book suggested for ages 4 to 8, featuring a group of kids who build make-believe worlds in their homes.

“Just look at what you can build out of ordinary stuff when you follow your imagination. Children and their caretakers will love this beguiling child-led tour of a make-believe world constructed from everyday household and backyard objects.

“Words and pictures work together cleverly to spark eureka moments: that “ship” is really a table, that “dark cave” is really a laundry basket, and more, as a day full of building, playing, and pretending turns into bedtime.”


Night Violets
By Mats Strandberg

  • Publisher: Rabén & Sjögren, Stockholm
  • Rights contact: Jenni Brunn, Grand Agency
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – Russia: Albus Corvus
  • Czech Republic: Dobrovsky
  • Denmark: Straarup & Co
  • The Netherlands: Blauw Gras

“A gothic romance for children aged 12 to 15, in which The Secret Garden meets Jane Eyre and Virgina Andrews.

Night Violets takes place in 1710 when the plague comes to Sweden. This is an eerie story about dark family secrets and forbidden love, ghosts and memories.

Mats Strandberg

“Magdalena, 15, has grown up in a rich, happy family. But not even the most privileged homes in the city are safe from the disease that some say is a punishment from God. When Magdalena’s mother dies, she and her little sister Ebba are sent away to their aunt while their father stays in Stockholm.

“Without her parents, Magdalena is forced to grow up quickly as she takes care of her sister. They arrive at Black Pond Castle, where they meet their mother’s sister for the first time. Aunt Katarina is fanatically religious, cold, and judgmental. The castle is severely understaffed. Beautiful, but slowly falling apart. The rooms are full of secrets.

“Why does Katarina hate Magdalena’s mother so much? Why is Magdalena not allowed, under any circumstances, to meet Katarina’s stepson Axel? Why did Magdalena’s mother leave her home town in such a rush? Who is the terrifying priest who has aunt Katarina in the palm of his hand? And why does the elm tree behind the church never lose its blood-red leaves?”


The Nine Ballerinas, No. 1
Against the Bear Gang
By Andreu Llinàs

  • Publisher: La Galera, Barcelona
  • Rights contact: Paula Esparraguera, Ute Körner Literary Agency
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – German: Woow Books
  • Italian: Il Castoro

Andreu Llinàs

“Gentle girls in pink and glittering tutus? Not this time.

“After chasing away the cruel headmistress of their orphanage, eight unruly girls vow that no one will ever humiliate them again.

“As they plan how to get rid of the new headmistress, a gang of thieves, the Bear Gang, will try to terrorize them … not knowing what they’re getting themselves into.”

Marta Marti, in reviewing the book, writers, “Despite its humorous tone, the book has quite a few touching moments in which the importance and strength of the group–and the empathy and understanding to face complicated situations–play a key role and turn the story into a moving narrative.” Suggested for readers aged 6 to 12 years.


Let’s Build a Dam
By Daniel Fehr
Illustrated by Mariachiara Di Giorgio

  • Publisher: NordSüd Verlag, Zurich
  • Rights contact: Hanna Lang, NordSüd Verlag, hanna.lang@nord-sued.com
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – World French: Les Éditions des Éléphants
  • Chinese Simplified: 21st Century
  • Spanish: Adriana Hidalgo
  • Catalan: Símbol Editors
  • Italian: Il Castello

Di Giorgio’s illustrations were included in The Original Art, a 2023 exhibition at New York’s Society of Authors.

“Siblings May, Lily, and Noah build a dam. Stone by stone, their dam grows higher and higher, until their creation attracts the attention of fishermen, pirates, and even the king and his fleet. The sky’s the limit, until Noah wants his stone back.

“Each page builds upon the previous scene as the children’s imaginations also grow. [Readers will enjoy] pointing out the changing details on each page in this picture book about the imagination and sibling friendship.”

An image by illustrator Mariachiara Di Giorgio for ‘Let’s Build a Dam.’ Image: NordSüd Verlag


Me, My Dog, and Humanity: A History of Coexistence Between Species
By Tiina Raevaara

  • Publisher: Otava / Like, Helsinki
  • Rights contact: Anna Kappauf, Elina Ahlbäck Literary Agency
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – Germany: Knesebeck Verlag
  • The Netherlands: Uitgeverij Mozaïek

While Tiina Raevaara’s Me, My Dog, and Humanity is not, actually, published as a young reader’s book, we know many in the YA range (and a few younger) who would both appreciate and learn from this work. After all, kids and dogs are among our most common and logical pairings. Raevaara is a biologist and a science journalist with a PhD in genetics. Her Double Helix (2020) is the opener of a thriller series.

Tiina Raevaara

So we’ve decided to include this title in our Roundup today. A bonus for our big-kid readers and their dogs.

About this book: “In the autumn of 2018, Raevaara found herself exhausted and anguished, with her mind dark like a Finland November. She did, however, find comfort in the company of her dog, Igor. She started pondering the reasons for her exhaustion and, simultaneously, the evolution of the human species and its relation to other animals. The current ascendancy of mankind is, according to Raevaara, not a result of humanity’s innate superiority, but, in fact, a result of its connections and relationships to other species. Ours is not a story of a purpose-driven humankind achieving its predominance in grand solitude, but of a humanity which has striven for connections with other animals.

“The domesticated dog is a much older creation of humankind than agriculture, religion, or even writing.”

“In her book Me, My Dog, and Humanity, Raevaara describes the coexistence between humans and animals, both personally and from the perspective of humankind, and seeks answers to a number of questions:

  • “Why does an exhausted person prefer to spend time with their dog than other people?
  • “Why do animals arouse such strong empathy in us?
  • “What does the human-animal connection mean from the perspective of evolution and humanity?

“The domesticated dog is a much older creation of humankind than agriculture, religion, or even writing. Mapping out the mutual journey between humans and dogs, Raevaara sheds light on the most fundamental essences of humanity and its relationship with nature.”


Submitting Rights Deals to Publishing Perspectives

An important note to those submitting listings: We must have a headshot of a book’s illustrator, when there is one, as well as its author headshot. Otherwise, we cannot consider the listing. Illustrators deserve full credit and recognition for their essential work in young people’s literature. Their covers are usually what attract the parent’s or child’s eye in the store, after all, not the text. Illustrators are the ones making the sales, let alone the visual beauty and wit of a good illustrated children’s book. We cannot use listings that don’t provide illustrator photos as they do author photos. (This is the most common shortcoming in listings we see.) Thanks for your attention.

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.

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.


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