Guten Tag! My trip with the German Book Office.

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Back in April, Riky Stock, director of the German Book Office in New York reached out to me with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity—to join a group of children’s book editors on a trip to Frankfurt and Hamburg to meet with German publishers and agents.  The German Book Office hosts this annual trip for editors to experience the wonders of beer, brats, and books in hopes of building a bridge between our two countries, for both American books that could succeed in Germany and vice versa.

My fellow editors for this year’s trip included Stacey Barney from Putnam/Penguin (and one of the founders of CBC Diversity!), Sheila Barry from Groundwood Books in Canada, Grace Maccarone from Holiday House, Ben Rosenthal from Enslow, and Reka Simonsen from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Our group had a great vibe, and by the end of the trip, we had our fair share of inside jokes and insightful discussion about books and, in particular, why foreign translations are so difficult for the North American market.

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The CBC Diversity Initiative is committed to bringing diverse experiences to our book market, and this includes stories told from a non-American point of view. After learning some eye-opening numbers about the German book market, it’s evident that while the American perspective is pervasive worldwide, we in turn are reluctant to embrace stories from other cultures.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • 24.8% of all new fiction titles in Germany are translations—and more than 70% of those are books from the US and the UK. Meanwhile, in the US, only 3% of all new titles are translations.
  • The biggest bestselling series in Germany mirror the American market:
    • Harry Potter
    • Twilight
    • Hunger Games
  • YA and children’s translations into German have almost doubled in the last five years.
  • In 2011, a total of 46 German translations were published in the U.S.

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