Publishing Trendsetter is a production of Market Partners International and Publishing Trends.

Translation in the English-Speaking World

Translations are an integral part of the publishing industry. They are potentially invaluable to shaping young minds, breaking down cultural barriers, and furthering the development of modern languages; literature in translation accounted for 13 percent of The New York Times list of the 100 most notable books for 2015. And yet, the English-speaking world produces translated titles at a very small rate. Salman Rushdie called the low number of translated books into English in America “shocking,” and Literature Across Frontiers Director Alexandra Büchler said that the percentage of books published in translation in the United Kingdom and Ireland is “embarrassingly low.” When books are chosen for translation into English, they are normally originally written in Indo-European languages by male authors. Female authors are extremely neglected, as are authors from cultures highly foreign to Anglophones. The statistics certainly are dismal, especially given what is at stake.

Trends in Translation:

 So just how low are translation rates in the English-speaking world? In America and the United Kingdom, translations only constitute 3 percent of publications, with fiction accounting for less than 1 percent of that figure. According to Rachel Bitoun, writer for The Artifice, those translations into English that are published tend to be produced by established authors, and American publishers have shown more interest in bringing British authors to the United States than in translating foreign books. According to the United Nations’ Index Translationum database, the top language translated into English is French, followed by German. The database also recorded that nine of the ten top languages translated into English are of the Indo-European language family. The only Asian language on this “Top 10” list is Japanese, and no Middle Eastern or African language makes an appearance. These statistics reveal a lack of variety of language families accepted for translation into English.

As in many industries, women find themselves underrepresented in the publishing of translations into English. According to Meytal Radzinski, who examined data published by the Three Percent database, female authors write only about 30 percent of books newly translated into English, and these statistics have changed little within the past few years. She noted that AmazonCrossing and Europa Editions are the only publishers where at least half of the books translated into English were written by women. University presses publish an embarrassingly low number, with only 19% of their books in translation being female-written. Since four university presses appear on the “Top 10” list for “Publishers of Translations in the US” and two have places on the corresponding list for the UK, they obviously value translations into English; why, then, do these university presses not publish more female authors in translation?

Who else is underrepresented in the publication of translations into English? In his essay “Translating Poetry, Translating Blackness,” writer John Keene spoke to the absence of translated black voices in America and globally. Like Radzinski, Keene also studied the statistics gathered by the Three Percent database. He noted that, in America, of the 588 books* of translated poetry and fiction published in 2014, only twenty-five translations came from China, four came from India, and fewer than five were published by non-Anglophone authors from sub-Saharan Africa, where books are actively being published by African publishing houses. Read More »

Top 5 Publishing News Stories 9/5-9/9

number_5_orangeEvery week we recommend 5 publishing news stories that young book professionals should read to feel more connected to what’s going on in the industry. There are only 5, so even if you weren’t able to read a thing all week, these should help keep you in the know.

NetGalley announced its new partnership with CBA, a leading Christian retail association.

Barack and Michelle Obama may be writing their memoirs after leaving office.

The inaugural Dragon Awards have concluded, and here are the winners.

Gabriel García Márquez will be the face of the Colombian 50,000 peso bill.

The Publishers Association released a “Brexit manifesto.”

Three-Martini Lunch: A Trendsetter Roundtable

America’s love affair with the mid-century is undeniable, if a little complicated. Combine the fifties with that other great American obsession, gossip, and you’ve got a story on your hands, as Suzanne Rindell demonstrates in her new novel, Three-Martini Lunch (Putnam, 2016). Rindell tells the overlapped tales of three up-and-coming talents in the Manhattan publishing scene – Cliff, Eden, and Miles – and their struggles to square their outsized dreams with reality. Things get messy and books get published, not necessarily in that order. Nina and Margo read it to see what’s changed and what hasn’t. Please know that we’ve tried to clearly warn our readers, but there’s a spoiler or two afoot.


three-martini-lunchNina: Okay. Three-Martini Lunch! Both the title of this book and a great low-carb meal option. Where should we start?

Margo: Well, I really enjoyed the alternating points of view that the book offered, especially the voice of Eden, who tells of her start in the publishing career. What did you like?

Nina: I definitely had mixed feelings about the book as a whole, but I likewise enjoyed the alternating points of view. Rindell was able to tell a pretty ambitious story – publishing in the ’50s – in a more complete and complicated way than she would have been able to with, for example, just Eden.

Margo: I completely agree. Though my knowledge of the publishing industry in the ’50s comes from second-hand sources, I imagine that Rindell conveys the intensity of the business very well. While I found Cliff’s narrative incredibly irritating, I think that Rindell included it to show that true dedication and talent was (and is) not always the key to success in the industry. [Spoilers ahead] Cliff’s stealing of Miles’ manuscript reminded me greatly of how novels published independently are often, even now, plagiarized and republished.

Nina: Oh, Cliff. He’s basically Guy In Your MFA from an earlier era. And speaking of earlier eras, there really was a great deal of attention paid to the period, down to the slang, which was very satisfying to read.

Why do you think a novel about publishing in the 1950s resonates so much in 2016? I don’t know if you saw, but the blurb on the front cover actually says that Three-Martini Lunch “does for publishing what Mad Men did for advertising.”

Margo: I think Rindell’s language gives the publishing scene in the ’50s that vibe that modern twenty-somethings still find so hip. It very much reminded me of Jacqueline Susann’s The Valley of the Dolls. For decades, readers have been drawn to stories that showcase the glamour of working for a high-pressure business in Manhattan, often an office fueled by alcohol and strong personalities.

Nina: There’s also something satisfying about undoing the Ward-and-June-Cleaver aesthetic of the 1950s, even if almost everyone knows now that it was never really that clean or easy. And besides, that was such an iconic era in literature – Rindell name-drops Kerouac and Hemingway, and the beatnik scene in the Village is an important setting for all three characters. You get the sense that literature really mattered. (Of course, I’m an optimist; I think that our society does still value literature, all reports of its death to the contrary.)

Margo: Exactly! Cliff seems to really connect with beatnik ideas, recognizing the good in the lifestyle; however, he does not understand that being a writer involves more than just the “look” or involvement in the Village culture. This is where Miles, I think, is particularly valuable to the narrative, because he has what Cliff is missing. He embodies the hipster aesthetic and is a great writer, characteristics shared by the historically great ’50s (Beat) writers. I thought it also interesting that Rindell discusses the typical role of women in publishing at the time: working as typists and secretaries, just waiting to meet their husbands. Eden was seeking what many would have thought to be a man’s career. Read More »

Top 5 Publishing News Stories 8/29-9/2

number_5_orangeEvery week we recommend 5 publishing news stories that young book professionals should read to feel more connected to what’s going on in the industry. There are only 5, so even if you weren’t able to read a thing all week, these should help keep you in the know.

Hachette sued Seth Grahame-Smith, author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, for breach of contract.

Penguin Random House has teamed up with the MTA to offer free ebook shorts to NYC-area subway riders.

The Federal Trade Commission has begun to target scholarly publishers with predatory practices.

Last quarter, earnings at Penguin Random House took a fall.

Barnes & Noble is opening a concept store in Texas that will serve food and wine, among other updates.


Keeping the Faith: Publisher Agnostic Content

This article was originally published on our parent site for the book publishing industry, Publishing Trends


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Be it tweets, blog posts, or marketing materials, content produced by book publishers is traditionally about the books they publish. But that’s not always the case. Some publishers are hosting blogs with “publisher agnostic” content, meaning the site will feature books and authors they don’t publish. In fact, some of these websites all but obscure the fact that they’re hosted by a major publisher, which raises a question: why? Why promote books and authors they don’t publish? And why are publishers keeping their name off of the content they’re publishing online?  Each of the three people interviewed said, “A rising tide lifts all boats,” a comforting and fitting aphorism that answers a question that they must be asked often.

Before looking at today’s digital landscape of publishers sharing books they don’t publish, let’s go back to 1984 when a Random House sales rep, Carl Lennertz, wrote what he called “The Random Report. It was a newsletter that went out to bookstores promoting Random House’s forthcoming titles and whatever promising titles were coming from the competition, as well as a few personal notes. Highlighting books from publishers other than Random House made him a favorite among independent bookstores,  —  and, of course, the publishers whose books he promoted.tor dor com

Lennertz, now the Executive Director of The Children’s Book Circle, took his newsletter online after the advent of digital; soon after he went on to start what is now IndieBound. Perhaps the first publisher to talk up books that weren’t their own online was Tor, which launched in 2008. The site’s Associate Publisher, Irene Gallo, describes it as a three-pronged operation: a daily blog about all things science fiction and fantasy-related, a community of readers, and a publisher. The key here is that they cover all things science fiction- and fantasy-related, not just related to or about books published by Tor or isn’t alone. Penguin Random House has a group of sites that publishes content not exclusively about their own books, including Suvudu, also a sci-fi and fantasy site; Signature, which is focused on current events and the news; and Hazlitt, a site simply focused on “the best stories.”

And then there is a publisher-hosted site that falls somewhere in the middle: Epic Reads.  Epic Reads is an online community and website for YA fans. Though it’s not immediately obvious, this is a HarperCollins site, which readers can discern from a HarperCollins copyright down at the bottom of the webpage. The only books sold on their site are published by HarperCollins, but all of the site’s original content is publisher agnostic. Read More »

Top 5 Publishing News Stories 8/22-8/26

number_5_orangeEvery week we recommend 5 publishing news stories that young book professionals should read to feel more connected to what’s going on in the industry. There are only 5, so even if you weren’t able to read a thing all week, these should help keep you in the know.

William Morris Endeavor acquired the LA-based boutique agency Rabineau Wachter Sanford & Gillett.

A Spanish publisher won the rights to clone the mysterious, centuries-old Voynich Manuscript.

Kenya’s 16% VAT on books is not going over well with the country’s publishers.

Amazon and Kobo announced their respective ongoing literary projects.

Donald Trump may have gone afoul of the FEC by using campaign donations to buy $55,000 in copies of his own book.

Book Jobs Not by the Book: Joel W. Coggins, Design & Production Editor at the University of Pittsburgh Press

Joel W. Coggins is the Design & Production Editor at the University of Pittsburgh Press, where he has worked since 2010. He was awarded an AAUP Mellon Residency Grant to visit the Design & Production Department at Columbia University Press in 2016. The only thing he seeks out more eagerly than bookstores while traveling is a good doughnut shop.


What was your first exposure to book business and what were the most important things you gained from it?
Somewhat typically, I worked on my high school’s literary magazine, which, while a small-time operation, at least lead to my realization that there are many necessary steps to bring a book into existence. I had a much more hands-on experience working on the Three Rivers Review of Undergraduate Literature while in college. It was during this time that I had to start actively making the phone calls and sending the e-mails that would keep everything moving. Overseeing the design & printing concerns for TRR were really what made me realize that those were things I care a lot about in the making of books.

How do you explain your current job to people?
I usually say “I’m a book designer.” And then they’ll ask, “like book covers, or…” and I say “yes, though I spend a lot more time concerned with the production of the books overall.” So then I usually go on a pedantic spiel about how cover design and book design are really separate production matters and tell them how much the phrase “interior design” grates on me in regard to book design. Then I explain that my job title is Design & Production Editor and I give a little overview of what goes into coordinating the production of a book. They usually say “that sounds pretty cool.” And I say “It is! I’m very lucky to have a job I’m really passionate about.

In what ways did your previous jobs or internships prepare you for what you do here?

I worked a lot, since I was a kid, at many jobs: swimming pool concessionaire, fry cook, sandwich artist. I’ve always had a streak of the Midwestern work ethic in me. My college work-study job, as a building/house manager at the student union, was really important in that I learned a lot about office organization and efficiency.

What value has this job brought to the way you think about book business as a whole and your own relationship to books?

Now that I work in scholarly publishing, I have much more insight into the financial realities of getting each book into the world. It’s been valuable to learn more about this, because from a production standpoint I’m now able to find a way to make every book the best, most beautiful book it can be within its budget. And that’s what I want: a world full of beautiful books.

 What advice would you give someone who is interested specifically in scholarly publishing?

It is important to learn what makes scholarly & university press publishing different from other publishing pursuits. It is largely a matter of mission: prioritizing the advancement and dissemination of scholarship ahead of profit (though both are important concerns!). University Presses have differing speciality areas and functions within their home institutions, and each is a little different from the next. The most valuable resource I can suggest is the Association of American University Presses, the organizational body that brings U.P.s together:

What principles of book design do you wish were more widely embraced – not just in books, but in our daily lives?
No orphans. Rimshot!

Top 5 Publishing News Stories 8/15-8/19

number_5_orangeEvery week we recommend 5 publishing news stories that young book professionals should read to feel more connected to what’s going on in the industry. There are only 5, so even if you weren’t able to read a thing all week, these should help keep you in the know.

Barnes & Noble fired their CEO, Ronald Boire.

HarperCollins unveiled a new design for their website this week.

For the first half of 2016, bookstore sales are up over 6%.

Wattpad is rolling out ads that will allow their writers to earn money through their posts.

Pamela Paul will soon be in charge of all books coverage at the New York Times.

Top 5 Publishing News Stories 8/8-8/12

number_5_orangeEvery week we recommend 5 publishing news stories that young book professionals should read to feel more connected to what’s going on in the industry. There are only 5, so even if you weren’t able to read a thing all week, these should help keep you in the know.

Penguin Random House will consolidate its two offices in 2019.

Bonnier Publishing announces a new US division.

After four years, Target will once again sell Kindles.

The National Endowment for the Humanities will endow over $4 million in publishing grants.

CliffsNotes is getting new digital features, including subscription-based test prep.

Top 5 Publishing News Stories 8/1-8/5

number_5_orangeEvery week we recommend 5 publishing news stories that young book professionals should read to feel more connected to what’s going on in the industry. There are only 5, so even if you weren’t able to read a thing all week, these should help keep you in the know.

Post-Cursed Child release, J.K. Rowling says that Harry Potter is “now done.”

Sourcebooks is adding customization options to certain titles through its Simple Truths business imprint.

No new novel cracked the bestseller list in the first half of 2016.

Hachette is partnering with Tapas Media to release several of its titles in “bite-size” mobile form.

Forbes released its list of highest-paid authors for 2016.