In the publishing business things tend to happen slowly, and in a certain order. A lot of the time it is easy for publishers to perceive rights business as a happy addendum to their main business (apart from those publishers for whom coeditions are a core part of their business model, but they are rare enough): publish the book for the home market first and then use the finished books to drive rights sales, using book fairs, the network of rights agents, websites etc to ensure that books get the best possibly chance of having a life in other markets: we have been very successful at this over the years, as our long list of foreign editions shows. As it is easier to sell from a finished book than a pre-publication description, this is usually the way we work. The majority of the time the revenue from volume sales will outweigh those from rights in any case, as many are small, but there are a significant number of cases where fights revenues, for author and publisher, are very significant — Brendan O’Carroll’s The Mammy has appeared in over a dozen foreign editions; Epic and Saga, for Conor Kostick; The Moorehawke Trilogy by Celine Kiernan; Eoin Colfer’s books — in children’s publishing these tend to be at the higher age levels, with titles for younger children so often met with a response of “we have our own authors for these books”, but even here there are significant exceptions: The Little Black Sheep sold over 250,000 copies in Japan!
We have had one delightful little series that has bucked the trend in an unusual way: The Witch Apprentice by Marian Broderick was published in our Forbidden Files series a few years ago. Marian used to work for us, and it’s always fun to work with someone who has jumped the fence from editor to author, as they really understand the process — quite apart from practically being family! Anyway, we showed this at Frankfurt and it was well-received: so well that Bertelsmann said that they would take the book on condition that it had a sequel, shortly after which they asked for a trilogy! We had thought of it as a stand-alone, but they had a good point — it was more than that.
We repackaged the newly-renamed Anna the Witch series when The Witch in the Woods came out last autumn, and now we are just about to produce the third and final installment: A Witch in a Fix.
So a big thanks for Bertelsmann for seeing the potential in Anna and encouraging us to develop these books largely on the back of rights potential, and to Marian, Francesca Carabelli (the wonderful illustrator) and Helen Carr (the editor) for seeing it through to a finish!