“Here’s a real hive!” Nicolas Roche, president of the Bureau International de l’Edition Française (BIEF) smiles as he brings the cup of tea to his lips. Around it, more than a hundred small white square tables and lively discussions. This is the first time since the creation of the Paris Book Fair (in 1981 by Jack Lang), now renamed the “Book Festival”, that the Paris Book Market takes place: for two days they will meet more than a hundred French publishers. international publishers hoping to sell them the copyrights of their books for possible translation.
In the form of quick quotes, executives go on interviews for about thirty minutes, looking for rare pearls.
At the origin of this beautiful project, Claire Mauguière, BIEF employee: “There has always been an international presence and negotiations at the show”she explains “But there was no space dedicated to this stage of the book chain. The publishers exchanged their contacts and then met at their facilities. “. Publishers from all over the world usually gather during the three major European literary fairs: Bologna, London and Frankfurt.
This new format of the Paris Book Festival aims to compensate for the absence of such meetings in France. “It’s also a way for small French publishers to make themselves known abroad. They don’t necessarily have the means to go to other international fairs. “adds Claire.
The editors responded. A total of 130 French and 150 foreign publishers accepted the invitation. “French is, after all, the second most translated language in the world after English!” Nicolas Roche, director of the BIEF, proudly boasts. “And foreigners are obviously also attracted to Paris, it’s a charming city.”
This first book market is generalist. You can find everything from cookbooks to science fiction novels. Publishers were able to book appointments in advance to maximize their days. “About 2,000 appointments were scheduled in two days”confirms Claire Mauguière, pointing to all the chairs occupied.
Gallimard, Michel Lafon, Les Fourmis Rouges, Fleurus … Among the 130 French publishing houses present, there are all sizes. Patricia Roussel, head of copyright for the Calmann-Lévy editions (those of a man named Guillaume Musso, translated in more than 40 countries …) has been interviewing since 9 am. He is almost forty in two days. “After these two difficult years, I’m glad to be able to find the publishers we’re used to working with.”he tells us while waiting for his next appointment, which can happen at any time. “And I know new ones too!”
Who says quick quotes, says seduction. Each publisher has their own method of convincing their interlocutor. “It simply came to our notice then. Personally, before the appointment, I look at the publisher’s editorial line to get an idea of the books I could offer. “, he adds, opening his catalog of several hundred pages. Patricia met Poles, Romanians, Portuguese, all of whom were very interested in her wide range of books. EtcWhat sells best are thrillers. “On the other hand, humor books never work! They are among the most difficult books to export. ”
A small disappointment, however, with regard to Asian publishers, who are fond of French literature. None made the trip due to health restrictions in their countries.
Along with Gallimard and Hachette, some small publishers are trying to find a place. Nathalie and Wendolyn came to represent the Po Science Press. Here are essays by Bruno Latour or Thomas Piketty. “It’s immediately less easy to sell a social science book than a children’s book”says Natalie. “Besides, our translations are expensive because we need a translator who knows something about sociology or politics.”. For this type of translation, it indicates that between 10,000 and 15,000 euros are needed.
Wendolynn and Nathalie have seven dates a day. They sell mainly atlases and short essays. His books are widely translated in Spain and Lebanon, among others, but they rely on this book market to reach new homes and new countries. “We choose the houses we work with very scrupulously. It’s getting harder and harder to sell in China, for example, mainly because they’ve redrawn our maps. In a post a few years ago, they incorporated Taiwan into China in one of our atlases.says Nathalie, sneering.
The results of the first day are also more varied than those of the major publishers: “A lot of people are enthusiastic but you never know what will happen next in the negotiations.”
Sitting in a high chair in the corner of the room, Erkurt Mehmet pencils his list of appointments. He comes from Istanbul and represents the Turkish editions “Can enfant”. A lover of French culture, he had not been to Paris for ten years. “I am just happy to be here. Even if it’s a real marathon “he said, pushing his glasses. “I discovered many French editions that I did not know, that do not reach Bologna or London. I come out with dozens of books to read ”.
Erkurt is also a translator, from French to Turkish. He likes to come to these types of fairs to really choose the works he wants to take care of.. “I’ve seen some fantastic books that will never be published in Turkey, unfortunately. Books can’t talk about sexuality, gender or identity.” he explains, disappointed. “We wouldn’t be penalized if we did, but the book would be censored.”. Erkurt has scheduled 25 appointments during these two days of racing but today he is leaving with a lover: the works of Jean-Claude Mourlevat -a discovery- published by Gallimard.
After these discussions, what happens? Foreign publishers leave with a lot of books to read. If they like it, they will contact the French publishers again to negotiate a contract and find a translator. A long-term process, which can take several months or even years.