Thursday, February 26, 2009

Translating Their Way to Publishing Success

We’ve had enough hard news from the publishing trenches of late. Good news was bound to come eventually. We just didn’t expect it from such an unlikely source.

Imagine: a small New York-based publisher kicking things up old-school by translating little known European works of literary fiction and publishing them and making a profit without the aid of either vampires or magical boys. Impossible? One would think so. The New York Times’ Motoko Rich says no:
It does not sound like a recipe for publishing success: a roster of translated literary novels written mainly by Europeans, relying heavily on independent-bookstore sales, without an e-book or vampire in sight.

But that is the formula that has fueled Europa Editions, a small publisher founded by a husband-and-wife team from Italy five years ago. As large New York publishing houses have laid off staff, suffered drastically reduced book sales and struggled to adjust to a digital future, Europa turned its first profit last year and is enjoying a modest but growing following.

The company, which operates out of a pair of tiny offices near Union Square in Manhattan, also has its first best seller with “The Elegance of the Hedgehog,” a French novel by Muriel Barbery narrated by a secretly intellectual concierge in a fashionable Parisian apartment building and a precocious preteen girl who lives there with her wealthy family. Filled with philosophical ruminations and copious references to literature, art, film and music, the book is in many ways as much of a surprise hit as its publisher.

The piece is lengthy, detailed, interesting and here.

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