European Book Fairs Want American Literature

Jun 27, 2023
Dimitris Passas

NOTE: This article is a republication- Source: Publishers Weekly (by Ed Nawotka).

American literature continues to command attention around the world, even if it seems to many abroad that Americans are not so interested in foreign works. Perhaps because of its position as the largest publishing market in the world, the U.S. has not been featured as a “guest of honor” country at any of the major international book fairs in years. Occasionally, you might see the U.S. embassy in a country sponsor a booth, as it did for several years at the Buenos Aires International Book Fair in the mid-2010s—though the only objects on display at that time were Amazon Kindle devices and iPads showcasing e-books.

“The U.S. doesn’t need to promote its literature abroad; everyone already buys rights to its books,” said one director at a recent fair who wished to remain anonymous. “Furthermore, who would we even ask to fund and run the project? The Association of American Publishers is not involved with promoting literature abroad and, when it comes to issues outside the U.S., primarily seems concerned with policing copyright infringement.”

Still, book fairs are finding ways to highlight works from the U.S. This year’s Thessaloniki Book Fair, the main professional publishing event for Greece, which ran May 4–7, featured “American literature” as the guest of honor. The program was sponsored by the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce, and, as a result, the Combined Book Exhibit hosted a booth featuring books from more than 20 U.S. publishers, including Abrams Books, Insight Editions, Penguin Random House, Quarto Group, Sourcebooks, and Yale University Press. American authors who took part included Claire Messud, Saskia Vogel, James Wood, and Nell Zink. European authors who were at the fair included the 2023 International Booker Prize winner Georgi Gospodinov, from Bulgaria. Greek authors ranged from bestsellers, such as children’s author Katerina Kris, to emerging talents like Alexandra K*, author of Things the Virgin Mary Thinks While Smoking Hidden in the Bathroom, a graduate of International Writing program at the University of Iowa.

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