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International perspectives

9 May 2016

The biggest international fair of the first half of the year starts on Thursday 12th May. BookExpo America is in Chicago this year and continues to be the very substantial domestic fair for the biggest book market in the world. This year there will be more focus on self-publishers, so it's worth exploring what it has to offer if you're interested in reaching the American market through publishing your own book.

On the subject of book fairs, the Shanghai International Children's Book Fair in November will have ‘an increasing emphasis on cross-platform opportunities' and hopes to attract media companies as well as publishers. The Fair has grown rapidly in the three years since it was established and this year it will have more than 300 exhibitors from 30 countries. It doesn't compare to the Bologna Children's Book FairThe Bologna Children's Book Fair or La fiera del libro per ragazzi is the leading professional fair for children's books in the world. in the Northern hemisphere's spring but it takes place in Asia, a very important growth region for children's books, offers access to the enormous Chinese domestic market and is positioned cleverly in the autumn, offering another opportunity for children's publishers to buy and sell international rights in children's books.

Translations are increasingly becoming more common in the US and figures just out in the UK show the same trend. Research commissioned by Man Booker International shows that sales of translated fiction have grown by 96% since 2001, bucking a downward trend in the overall fiction market, according to findings reported by Nielsen Book. The value of annual translated fiction sales in the period has risen from £8.9m to £18.6m. Bestselling translated authors have included Henning Mankell, Stieg Larsson, Michel Houllebecq, Jo Nesbo, Haruki Murakami, Irene Nemirovsky, Hans Fallada, and Elena Ferrante.

It's notable that the list above includes bestselling popular authors who have reached a big international market in translation, as well as literary writers, thus breaking these authors through to a much bigger market. Translated literary fiction punches above its weigh though, accounting for 7% of literary fiction sales while comprising only 3.5% of UK publishers' output in the genre. Literary fiction from 91 languages has appeared in the years covered by the study.

For many writers who are passionate about books being published in more than the author's native language, readers' increasing enthusiasm for translated literary fiction in particular is encouraging.