NNFN: On finding great non-fiction in unusual places – a guest post by Sam Hutchinson, b small publishing
Translated books make up a sadly small percentage of the books bought in the UK. Translated non-fiction children’s books are even rarer, but today we’ve a fascinating insight into a really stunning translated non-fiction book which has just been published in the UK by b small publishing, Pharaoh’s Fate – Solve the ancient Egyptian mystery by Camille Gautier & Stéphanie Vernet, illustrated by Margaux Carpentier, and translated by Catherine Bruzzone.
“Publishing is a bit like gambling: we pay our authors, editors, designers and illustrators to make the books, print thousands of copies upfront, put stock into the warehouse and spend time and money on promotion and marketing – all in the hope that people will buy the books!
Because of this, we’re really grateful for events like National Non-Fiction November that promote our category and help it to grow. I know it seems like non-fiction is all that everyone is talking about (especially in November!) but if you visit your local bookshop, you’ll see that the children’s section is probably still 80% fiction and picture books. And the majority of the table displays are fiction and picture books too. From my point of view, the increased attention on the non-fiction category means that more and more publishers are piling into it making it more and more competitive. The books have to be accurate and educational whilst also being beautiful designer objects that people want to own or give as gifts and full of enough facts to make it seem worth the money. It’s a lot to get into one book!
So when we came across Pharaoh’s Fate, our October publication written by Camille Gautier & Stéphanie Vernet and illustrated by Margaux Carpentier, we instantly fell in love with it. The illustrations are simply stunning and it’s packed full of facts about ancient Egypt. But there’s also a mystery narrative that runs through the book, plus tabs down the side allowing the reader to jump around and discover ancient Egypt.
This book came to us in a bit of an unorthodox way. My partner, Rudi, decided to come to the Bologna Book Fair in April earlier this year for a bit of a holiday. He doesn’t work in publishing but I gave him the task of walking around the fair with our art director, Vicky Barker, to look for books that we could translate for our market. Together, they found Pharaoh’s Fate, brought it back to our team meeting after the fair and presented it to us. We all fell in love with it. We knew the competition would be tough but our sales team, Bounce, were excited when we showed it to them so we felt we were onto a winner.
It’s unusual for us to acquire a finished book. Generally our books are written in house or we commission an author and an illustrator to work with us and our art director on a specific project. Personally, I found the process really interesting as my job is essentially to be the champion of each of our books, which is really easy when they are books you’ve conceived of and created from scratch. It’s also my job to identify the topics that do well in our market & think of how we can put our own personal spin on them. This book came to us fully formed and I had to work out exactly why it was special (so I could tell the sales people!) and make it fit the UK market. I knew that Egyptians was a good seller from previous books we had published and could see a gap in the newly formed gift-worthy hardback non-fiction market for this topic. So I acquired the rights.
We didn’t end up changing much about the interiors (just translating the text from French to English) but we did alter the cover and the title. I’ve included images of the original French cover and our UK cover below so you can see the difference. France enjoys a really strong children’s book market and nearly everything there is beautifully illustrated and wonderfully produced. Our market is a little more varied, so we had to tweak the cover to make sure it would fit firmly into the upper end of the market. We also felt that the original title, ‘Panique en Egypte’ (Panic in Egypt) wasn’t quite right for us, so we changed it to Pharaoh’s Fate. The final touch was adding gold foil to the cover – we felt like it was what the ancient Egyptians would have wanted!
We’ve made bunting, paper chains and activity sheets and other wonderful things that booksellers can use to decorate their spaces. If you’d like to create a Pharaoh’s Fate space – please do speak to Bounce Marketing if you want a display kit. ”
Our thanks go to Sam Hutchinson from b small publishing for giving us an insight into discovering great new non-fiction books. Here’s hoping we see more wonderful translated non-fiction books in the future!
You can find out more about b small publishing on their website https://www.bsmall.co.uk/, and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/bsmallpublishing, and can follow them on Twitter, @bsmallbear.