International Success: Selling Niche Titles Beyond the Prime Home Market

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Publishing Research Quarterly

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Book industry -- Digital humanities


As the world becomes increasingly international and new markets open up for business, questions arise for small, niche publishers: what makes a book sell well internationally? Can niche titles sell well abroad? And, more importantly: How can I find and publish a book that will be a global success? To answer these questions in this article, Scottish publishing companies will be used as examples to illustrate the ways in which even region-specific niche publishers can successfully sell and market abroad.

That being said, it is hardly fair to oversimplify the issue and say that some books are simply “good” and others are “bad” or even to blame the success or failure of titles abroad on luck. Though there is an element of having the right product in the right place at the right time, many factors play into international sales and they cannot be disregarded.

The main elements for creating a book of international acclaim are content development, design, marketing, literary prizes, and the selling of other kinds of rights. A knowledge of how to use these aspects of book creation and promotion to make a title appeal internationally is the key to success in selling rights—whether translation or English language territorial rights—to expand a publishing company’s business.

Regional appeal is not always a bad thing. Having a book that is based in Edinburgh, for example, could still be appealing internationally, as was the case with Dougie’s War, a graphic novel produced by Freight Books. Dougie’s War is Scottish, but the story is centred on war—a theme which transcends culture. While the setting or characters may not be international, if the themes in the story are universal of the human condition, then that book can be translated, read, and understood by peoples of all cultures.

For a publishing company to implement a rights-selling strategy that works, all members of staff must be on board. Editors, designers, marketers, and producers should all be involved in the process in order for rights to really be at the core of the company’s goals. The following pieces of rights selling success illustrate how the work of other departments can aid in selling rights.


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At the time of writing the author was affiliated with the University of Stirling.



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