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Many Different Genres of Korean Novels Are Now Selling Abroad

 

2021.10.05

 

Most foreign publishers are very interested in Korean thrillers since the publication of The Plotters (Munhakdongne) by Un-Su Kim, The Good Son (EunHaeng NaMu) by You-Jeong Jeong, and The Only Child (Elixir) by Mi-Ae Seo. LEMON (Changbi) by Kwon Yeo-sun will be published this October by Other Press, US, Head of Zeus UK (and has been sold in several other foreign countries) and is garnering astounding reviews. The Old Woman with the Knife (Wisdomhouse) by Gu Byeong-Mo, retitled from Bruised Fruit, will be published next fall by Hanover Square Press. US, Canongate, UK, Mondadori, Italy, Ullstein, Germany, and many other sales are occurring now. The upcoming publications and pre-pub buzz is getting foreign publishers super excited and desiring more thrillers to acquire for their lists.

 

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The Good Son, LEMON, The Old Woman with the Knife

 

 

This month I sold Jung-Myung Lee’s Broken Summer (EunHaeng NaMu) to Amazon Crossing and The Consultant by Sung-soon Lim to Bloomsbury UK. Both publishers acquired world English language deals and are excited to publish the books as lead titles in 2023. Amazon Crossing sees Broken Summer as a World Book Day lead title. Bloomsbury thinks that the author Sun-soon-Lim’spersonal story will be of great interest to the Guardian, NY Times, and other major newspapers around the world.
For Kyung-Sook Shin, 2022-23 will be a renaissance in WEL (World English Language) and foreign publishing. Kyung-Sook Shin’s novel VIOLETS (Munhakdongne) that she wrote twenty-one years ago and is considered a feminist book, will be published for the first time in English by Feminist Press and Weidenfeld & Nicolson. I strategized for Shin’s renaissance in 2022, 2023 because of the upcoming 10th anniversary of the English language publication of Please Look After Mom (Changbi), to sell VIOLETS and her latest book, I WENT TO MY FATHER (Changbi). Because of the interest in Shin and her great achievement of Please Look After Mom, which won the Man Asian Prize in 2014 and has been a hot book since, publishers were excited to build and publish her two new books around this anniversary celebration time. Using the Mom celebration and press attention will bring more press and PR to Shin’s new publications. I was after a significant publicity, publication event for Shin’s new books and was able to achieve those goals for Shin.
I always try to use a special strategy to present a Korean book to foreign publishers and make a book stand out. For Un-Su Kim’s The Cabinet (Munhakdongne), his debut novel, Angry Robot, in the UK, was intrigued by his only non-thriller and felt the brilliant and different novel would stand out and appeal to their sci-fi, fantasy readers. They will publish it as a lead title this October. After publishing both Un-Su Kim’s books in France, Calm Matin published The Cabinet just this summer. Although Kim is known as a thriller writer, his witty, ironic sci-fi satire breaks him out of his genre, and foreign publishers were happy to acquire it. I felt that the sci-fi market, with a huge and dedicated fan base, if they were able to read The Cabinet, would be devoted Un-Su Kim fans and discover his thrillers also. I strategized to break Un-Su Kim out of his thriller genre category and expand into sci-fi to give him a great number of potential readers and books buyers who will be excited about this brilliant Korean author.

 

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Please Look After Mom, VIOLETS, The Cabinet

 

 

Historical women’s stories are showing a real resonance with World English language editors, and I just sold two in a row to Forge Press and Scribe Publishers. Aloha My Mothers retitled The Picture Bride (Changbi) and Can I Go? (Sakyejul) by Lee Geum-yi. It is unusual these days to sell a second book by an author before the first book is published, but the editor has a keen eye for what he knows will work and what he loves. The Picture Bride captured the hearts of everyone at Forge, so when I obtained Can I GO? I instantly submitted it to him. The strategy of knowing an editor well and what they like and are passionate about helped in this situation to now position the author for the coming years with two books.
The genre of women’s historical novels are super popular especially WW II historicals. Still, not many foreign readers know much about Korean history and how women fared during past times. These historical women's stories have special meaning for readers, I think, because we are discovering them for the first time, and we can identify with the struggles of the women depicted and learn about the history of Korea in capitvating ways. Therefore, I think this is a genre that will be more and more popular in the future.
We are currently developing a YA list, and it comprises YA and sci-fi titles to start with. The reason being that it is not as easy to break into the YA publishing world with Korean literature because most editors are not familiar with working with translations. Therefore we chose very commercial, hot sci-fi titles that would appeal to the market like Hunger Games, Harry Potter, etc. We sold our first Korean YA book called SNOWGLOBE (Changbi) by So-Young Park to Random House YA for World English and are now presenting it at the upcoming Frankfurt Book Fair. We chose the most commercial, topical books to present as YA titles first.

 

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The Picture Bride, Can I GO?, SNOWGLOBE

 

 

The strategies I create for each book and author are tailored for that particular book. I create sales and marketing pamphlets and mock-up covers, create social media outreach and help English language editors market and sell the books to their sales forces and marketing teams. A big part of my job is helping to market and sell a book. We can help sway the trends and tastes of readers and foreign publishers by sharing the marketing, social media, praise, attention, and information about a book and an author. One country’s press and information is definitely beneficial to help another country’s publication. Pre-publication buzz can help sell a book around the world. Movie and TV deals also help sell a book. And as much as I strategize for a book and make a plan, I change it, too. One needs to be flexible and do whatever it takes to get attention and spotlight a book and author that deserve to be read by readers all over the world.

 

 


Written by Barbara J. Zitwer (Barbara J. Zitwer Agency)

 

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#Korean Novel#thriller#history#YA
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