In our CanLit on the Move series, Livres Canada Books interviews Canadian publishers about their foreign marketing activities and the role of Canadian books in the international marketplace. For this installment, we’ve caught up with Arnaud Foulon from Groupe HMH who talks about the need for support systems to help Canadian publishers break into international markets.
1. Who are you and what do you do?
Arnaud Foulon, vice-president, publishing and operations for Groupe HMH.
2. Describe your publishing program in one sentence.
Groupe HMH is a trade publishing house that publishes across the entire book industry, with 140 new books every year and a catalogue of 2,000 titles.
3. What is your most successful title on the international market? What do you think makes that title successful? Generally, what makes an international success?
Historically, the Bescherelle has been our biggest seller, but we only sell it in Canada. Internationally, Jocelyne Saucier’s Il pleuvait des oiseaux is without a doubt our biggest seller this year. It’s won numerous literary awards since its publication in 2011 and was translated in 12 or 14 countries.
For a book to become an international success, it must first be successful in its home country. Five years ago, we set up an in-house foreign rights department and since then, we’ve maximized our foreign contacts and invested more time and energy in the international market, so naturally the results have improved.
4. What are your primary export markets? What do you think makes these compatible with the titles you publish?
French-speaking Europe is our primary export market. We sell books via our distributor there and have also had numerous rights deals with French publishers. It’s also a market that’s proving to be more open to Québec literature.
5. Name one of your books that you love to peddle on the foreign rights market? What titles from your publishing house are you currently excited about promoting? Why?
Juliette, the young-adult series which we’ve already sold in Holland and in France. It’s been extremely successful for us here and we’d like to sell it in other English-speaking territories. We think it has real potential – especially in the English-language market given the results we’re seeing across Québec and even in France. We’ve already sold over 100,000 copies.
6. What are some of the greatest challenges you face in promoting books in international markets?
For us, the greatest challenge is to be active in international markets without abandoning the national market here at home. Trying to do both means we need to have people who are solely dedicated to exports. To sell books or series in foreign markets, publishers and business owners often have to travel to meet with publishers in person, and covering these travel expenses is one of our greatest challenges.
7. What is your favourite book event outside of Canada?
We go to the Frankfurt Book Fair every year, but my personal favourite is the London Book Fair. We buy a lot more in London, whereas we sell more in Frankfurt and other fairs such as Buenos Aires, Göteborg, Sharjah and Beijing. I definitely have a soft spot for the London Book Fair.
8. If you could recommend one Canadian book to an international reader, what would it be?
If I had to choose a title that was not one of ours, I’d say Ru by Kim Thuy. It’s a fabulous novel about the Vietnamese boat people. I think it’s a book that has touched a lot of people.