European Publishing Tour 2016: Amsterdam and Paris

European Publishing Tour 2016 part 2: Going back to my roots in Amsterdam and Paris

By Marleen Seegers — Article first published in June 2016
european publishing

Celebrating King’s Day in style, courtesy of Monique Boltje at Zomer & Keuning!

As I had planned my Barcelona visit to include Sant Jordi, I couldn’t stay longer than a week in the Netherlands before continuing my journey on to Paris. The Dutch national holiday Koningsdag (King’s Day) on April 27 made my stay even more rushed, as I had to squeeze all my Amsterdam meetings into four days, instead of five. Luckily nearly all publishing houses that used to be based in other cities have recently moved back to the Dutch capital, which makes it much easier to organize and optimize meetings there. The weather turned out to be more of a challenge though: when I packed my suitcase for a five-week spring trip in Europe, I had not anticipated snow and hail showers in Holland! And somehow I must have deleted my knowledge about the capricious spring weather conditions of my birth country from my memory…

During the crisis, the Dutch publishing scene underwent a considerable amount of changes. Even though the market has become more stable since, a few more changes took place in the past six months. Independent publishing house De Geus is now part of Singel Uitgeverijen and joined the latter in their Amsterdam offices early May, and Meridiaan left Overamstel Publishers to join Atlas-Contact. Sales seem to be picking up a bit again, yet—just like I noticed in Barcelona the previous week—everyone is still very cautious, especially when it comes to acquiring foreign fiction.

European publishing

Esther Gerritsen’s BROER, this year’s Gift of the Dutch Book Week (De Geus)

A wonderful initiative in The Netherlands to stimulate the market is the annual Boekenweek (Book Week) in March. During this week, whenever people buy a book in the Dutch language, they receive a second book for free: the Boekenweekgeschenk, or the Gift of the Book Week. Each year, another author is asked to write this specific book, which is of course a great honor. This year the author of the Gift of the Book Week was Esther Gerritsen, whose BROER, with an initial print run of a stunning 650,000 copies, garnered raving reviews and was recently sold to Aufbau in Germany, at auction.

After having spent a freezing week in Amsterdam and a few days with my family in Maastricht, I was off to Paris. 2015 was a rough year for the City of Lights, and I was curious to hear first-hand accounts about the impact of the terrorist attacks on the publishing market. I felt a clear division between the more commercial houses, who claim that sales have increased, and publishers of literary fiction who regretfully state that sales have slowed down. Both agree that the French have bought more books since the attacks: non-fiction titles which help them understand what is going on, and commercial fiction to find entertainment. Literary fiction in translation, on the other hand, is in dire states—like in The Netherlands and Spain, from what I gathered during my meetings there. In France, the average print run of foreign literary fiction has often times dropped by 50% in recent years.

European publishing

A bit of nostalgia: where my publishing career began in 2003, as an intern at Editions Tallandier, then based at 18 rue Dauphine in the 6th arrondissement of Paris

To answer this increased need for entertainment, publishers have started to sell feel good novels by French authors. Several editors acknowledged that this is a genre they never used to publish, at least not written by domestic authors. But these books seem to sell well, and not only in France…

Another development, which I had already noticed in other countries like the Netherlands, is that the challenges the French publishing market faces have created room for innovation. Several new exciting publishing ventures have seen the light in France recently: Agullo Editions, Editions Anamosa, and Premier Parallèle. The latter currently is having quite some success with their title AN INFALLIBLE MEMORY. How to Shine in Company without Resorting to Your Smartphone (which 2 Seas Agency represents in the Netherlands, the Nordic countries and North America).

After an inspiring and instructive stay in Paris, I was ready to attack the last leg of my 2016 European Spring Tour: off to the Turin Book Fair!

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