More in this series: Agent | Ghostwriter | Editor | Library Assistant | Publicity Assistant | Typesetter | Cover Designer | Foreign Rights Manager | Blogger |Scout |Translators | Book charity | Copyeditor
I’m back today with another interview with a publishing industry professional. Claudia Medin works at my publishers, Walker Books, as a Foreign Rights Manager. English books are often translated into other languages so that they can be read around the world, and Claudia works with international publishers to try and make that happen! She has been doing an amazing job of sharing The Next Together with publishers around the world (more on that soon! 😉 ) and I’m so pleased she’s taken the time to talk to me about her work.
What does your job involve?
As a Foreign Rights Manager, I need to know our list, and I need to know our customers. The goal is to bring them together in order to close a deal and to make everyone happy: the author and illustrator and in-house editor in anticipation of a foreign language edition of their work, the foreign publishing house in adding an exciting title to their list, and a foreign readership to be able to choose exactly that book to read in their language.
We are constantly working on presentation material to share with our customers and once a customer has expressed sincere interest and we have negotiated the terms, the more bureaucratic process begins; we draft and sign a contract, issue an invoice, send out digital assets, and monitor royalty statements and payments. It can sometimes be a real challenge to find the right book for the right publisher and although the majority of submissions do not result in a sale, it’s rewarding when it happens.
How did you get started in Foreign Rights?
I studied different languages and was always asked where that would lead me to… I had heard about Foreign Rights during my studies, but it was difficult to get an internship, as people advised me to start in editorial and then move on to Foreign Rights – but I didn’t want to “steal” an internship from someone who really wanted to go into editorial.
I was very lucky in 2005 when I got a three months’ internship with a brilliant publisher in Germany. The Foreign Rights team there prepared me for everything coming, and encouraged me to stay on that path. I am still very grateful for that experience. I then got my first job right away with another fantastic German publisher, and even climbed up the ladder 2 years later, being Rights Director for 6 years, dealing with both book and merchandising rights. I joined Walker Books 2 years ago, going back to book rights only – and I couldn’t be happier about it!
Have you ever wanted to write yourself?
No, never. I will stick to reading and selling rights, and leave the writing part to those who are good at it.
There are probably three different things: getting an unexpected offer in, especially when you know that the customer fell in love with a particular book, receiving finished foreign language copies, and developing new sales strategies. These can be creative, subtle or bold. And it is so rewarding when it finally works out!
Do you get to travel much for your job?
Yes, I do. There is not only the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Spring and the Frankfurt Book Fair in Autumn, but also a number of business trips around the year. Book Fairs are hard work, with back-to-back 30-minute-meetings to see up to 50 customers in 3 to 4 days, plus all the preparation and follow-ups, but it is also great to see customers, colleagues and friends.
Visiting our customers in their offices gives us the chance to learn more about how they work, to get to know each other better, and to have more time to discuss the new titles. And it is always helpful to go to book shops in other countries and get a better idea of how the market works.
What do you hope to see happen in Children’s publishing in the future?
Well, what we are seeing is the growing interaction between books and digital content. I hope to see mutual support of those two, instead of digital technique taking over completely. If we share the pleasure of reading an actual book with young kids, it will hopefully spark their love for reading as well, no matter what the general reading behaviour will be like in the future.
Apart from this, if I am perfectly honest, I would hope for a reduced amount of new books to be published every year. The amount of new books being published is just rising and rising, and in my opinion it would do the market good if we could slow down a bit, for selected titles to blossom and flourish.
What are some of your favourite children’s books now and from your childhood?
My mother used to read to me and my brother every evening before bedtime. We grew up with a lot of Astrid Lindgren, but my favourite series was probably “Schnuepperle” by Barbara Bartos-Hoeppner (not translated into English, unfortunately) – I still own those books and read them from time to time. My family also kept our very first books, small format “Pixi” books about a dog and a fairy tale book. We chewed 30 % of the pages and they nearly fell apart, so it’s hardly readable anymore, but they are a family treasure.
Are there big differences among the territories you work with?
Yes there are! It starts with the topics of the books, as not all territories will embrace books on what they might consider to be more controversial subjects. We need to be aware of any cultural sensibilities and try to match the right book to the right customer. The international business approach and etiquette can be different too and it’s good to be aware of the various nuances, but ultimately the passion and enthusiasm for children’s books can bring us together and strengthen our global understanding.
Has being involved in publishing changed how you read books for pleasure?
I’ve always been a keen reader and I wouldn’t want to live without books. I can spend hours in a good book shop, looking at new and old titles, carrying a pile of books to the till in the end, anticipating happy hours of reading. However, I have to admit that I only allow myself to read books for pleasure over the summer and at Christmas time, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to cope with the amount of books I need to read for work. Over the years I have become a very fast reader, and I try to slow down again when reading for pleasure.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to get into publishing?
What I noticed over the years is that few people know about the different departments in a publishing house – most people know about editorial and marketing departments, but are not so familiar with the work of sales, export, production or foreign rights departments! Think about what strengths you have and what you’d really like to – and then find your path and follow it. It might not always be easy, especially in the beginning, but it is worth it – publishing, especially children’s book publishing is a fantastic area to work in!
Claudia Medin has worked in Foreign Rights in Germany and the UK for over a decade, and is now the Foreign Rights Manager for Walker Books.
A rebloggable version of this post can be found here.