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Foreign Agency on Publishing K-Books in Other Countries
in Cooperation with Korean Agency




Amid an unprecedented wave of interest in Korean content, through my agency, I have the privilege of helping children’s, YA, and crossover Korean books across all genres to spread beyond Korea’s borders and into new markets outside of Asia. Korean fiction for adult readers is gaining significant attention and experiencing a real boom in many Western markets, including English, French, Spanish, German and Italian. But children’s books are lagging behind that trend, perhaps because publishers often look for familiar settings that they think parents and children will recognise and identify themselves more easily within. But the movement toward a more diverse publishing list is reaching across all reading ages and helping open up catalogues to more and more works in translation. As a result, many of the Korean titles I have sold were to publishers that had never previously published books from South Korea.
I am not alone in this publishing journey - and I am very thankful to be working in close collaboration with the Korea Copyright Center (KCC). The passionate, professional team at the KCC has enabled me to proactively scout the Korean children's publishing market, respond quickly to trends and market needs, and access the catalogues of many major Korean publishers. KCC’s infectious enthusiasm, great relationship with Korean publishers, and local market knowledge meant we could quickly build a sizeable portfolio of titles to offer Western publishers. Together with my constantly expanding customer network and focus on Western market trends, we have been able to establish ourselves as key players for publishers looking to acquire Korean books. Close and efficient collaboration means we can provide prompt administrative support to all parties, allowing for the smooth running of all post-sale steps. Essential to this success is our positive working relationship and our shared vision of professionalism in the rights trade, and the literary quality and commercial success of the books we select.






Magic Candies, The Strange Mom, The Bath Fairy, and Cloud Bread



Our first accomplishment came when KCC sent me the PDFs of Heena Baek’s titles, published by Bear Books. It was love at first sight. Although there was a risk Western editors might have struggled at first to relate to the whimsical, immersive, filmographic, photographic style of the artist, I was sure children would love her worlds and her magical storytelling. Soon after receiving the material, I was alerted that there had been an offer for Spanish language rights for one of Heena’s titles. Knowing the Spanish market, I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to find the best home for this author in Spain. So I sent it straight to the director at Editorial Kókinos, someone whom I knew would appreciate the unique quality of Heena’s work, and, true enough, she fell under her spell. We were able to put together an eight-book offer for her works that won the auction. Kókinos have now already published Magic Candies, Moon Sherbet, and The Strange Mom, with The Bath Fairy and Cloud Bread on their way. The Spanish edition of Magic Candies, Caramelos Mágicos, published in November 2021, was selected the following month by El País as one of the best children’s books of the year. It certainly made heads turn.
In addition to Spanish and Catalan, Magic Candies is already published in Japanese, Simplified Chinese, Complex Chinese, English (North America), Russian, Swedish, and Brazilian. But the number of languages is bound to keep growing. We just sold Italian rights and will be presenting her work in Frankfurt to many more European publishers. We do hope the fair will go ahead as an in-person event as children’s books, and picture books in particular, really benefit from being shown as physical copies and not just PDFs.


* K-Book Trends Vol. 26 – Go to the interview with writer Bae Heena


Another great project I worked on is Uro/Yulu’s Linen (Bear Books) by two children’s books supers stars: Chinese author Cao Wenxuan and Korean illustrator Suzy Lee. My agency works with both Chinese and Korean picture books, and so it's been particularly exciting to present a book created out of the encounter of such talented creators from both countries. There was strong interest in this title following the Special Mention in the Fiction category at the 2021 Bologna Ragazzi Award and Suzy’s receipt of the Hans Christian Andersen Award. In addition, world English Rights were hotly contended in a high-profile bid. International award recognition, and award-winning authors and illustrators are often key to international acquisitions as foreign publishers are reassured the investment in the translation will pay off.
Recently, we’ve been focusing on a crossover title: Dallergut Dream Department Store (Sam & Parkers). The conjunction of a universal story, gripping writing, best-selling status, and an excellent English translation meant we have been able to stir up considerable international interest, with Italian and Spanish rights both sold at auction.


* K-Book Trends Vol. 37 – Go to the interview with writer Suzy Lee


* K-Book Trends Vol. 47 – Go to the article about the successful case of Dallergut Dream Department Store in the Taiwanese Publishing Market




Uro/Yulu's Linen, Dallergut Dream Department Store



In June, I was invited to participate in the Seoul International Book Fair as a fellow. It was an incredible opportunity to experience firsthand the vibrant Korean publishing business and delve deeper into an exciting market that is so central to my agency. Korean publishers are increasingly aware of the foreign rights sale potential of their books, and we had many interesting conversations about what Western publishers are looking to acquire from South Korea. As a panel at a seminar on the international success of Korean literature, we discussed what the key ingredients are to the success of Korean books on the international market: cool, innovative writing (and illustration); a strong selling hook (an award, number of copies sold, etc.) and strategic timing, coupled with suitable presentation material (a good English sample and synopsis).
The Seoul International Book Fair was also a great opportunity to meet many of the publishers whose work I had been representing, as well as potential new partners, to discuss current and future projects and share feedback and market trends. Here too, the KCC were essential in organising my schedule, as well as taking the meetings with me to help with the interpreting and intermediation between the Korean publishers and me, with incredible smooth teamwork. Reflecting on our work over the last two years, it feels like we’re just at the very beginning of unlocking the potential of Korean children’s books on the international market.


* K-Book Trends Vol. 49 - Go to the article about Seoul International Book Fair in 2022



Written by Chiara Tognetti (Chiara Tognetti Rights Agency)



Chiara Tognetti (Chiara Tognetti Rights Agency)

#KCC#Chiara Tognetti Rights Agency#Heena Baek#Seoul International Book Fair#Suzy Lee
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