Imagine a world where we didn’t know about foreign literature and the world wouldn’t know ours. No Dostoevsky, no Grimm Brothers, no Günter Grass, no Harry potter in regional languages or any other language except English for that matter! Would such a world be liveable? To me, it would be like a horrendous nightmare that I would give anything to wake up from. We often overlook important aspects of book publishing like foreign rights but if they didn’t exist, we would not have such a diverse range of literature. Friederike Barakat’s master class helped us a lot in understanding this. She was absolutely delightful and ever so patient with us and our multiple spontaneous questions.
You would ask (and it is quite sensible to ask) what the benefits of foreign rights are and well, it would mean that you have a wider audience, the entire world to be exact. There is a massive potential for a book that gets picked up by publisher from another part of the world, or if an author decides to go global. Amazing things happen—take Iliya Troyanov, for instance. He is the author of The Collector of Worlds and Friederike worked with him. To make things simpler for us, she presented us with the example of how his book—originally in German (Der Weltensammler)—got published worldwide in various languages; how she had to make a foreign rights catalogue and entice the publishers worldwide to pick it up; and told us about how much it helps when the book has already been critically acclaimed and won a prestigious literary award.
She gave us a whole lot of reading material to go over; there was a memorandum of agreement and a copy of the contract that Carl Hanser Verlag (where Friederike is the Foreign Rights Director) had signed with Troyanov. It was very clear and easy to grasp as to how the entire process worked. To make it more fun for us, she gave us a small assignment—we had to think of an author, his/her work and give a small presentation on why this work should be translated and made available to foreign markets. It was an attempt to make us experience first-hand the process of selling rights and rather than worrying about how to do it, we were concerned (chewing nails and pulling at our hair in desperation) about our favourite authors and favourite books. Nonetheless, we all had a great time doing it. But more than that, it was Friederike who made it seem and sound so awesomely interesting that it was hard not to fall a little in love with her—it was evident how much she loved what she did.
All in all, loved this master class, loved having Friederike and her open and amazing approach towards teaching us something that we rarely ever gave much thought to before. It is amazing how big and wonderful opportunities foreign rights can offer, how much there is to know and do in this never-ending sea; onwards, always onwards.