Alice goes to Portugal

Portuguese cover for Alice Again

One of the very best bits about this publishing game is when a foreign edition of one of our books hits the desk. It is the culmination of a process that starts with meeting an editor or scout at a bookfair (or, as often happens, the tenth meeting with the same person on successive years, waiting to get a hit!) and plugging everything from your list that you think might stick! After that there’s the sample copies to send, the agents to keep in the loop, the negotiation over price, terms, territories etc and then things go quiet: at our end.

For the foreign publisher, that’s the point where the rest of the company gets to hear about it — they have to translate, check difficult bits with the author, get our image files (if they are using them) and combine them with their text, build a publicity plan and (and this is the best bit) design a new cover.

The next we hear about it is when a copy of the translated edition arrived in the door, which is always great fun. The great bit about foreign covers is that the show clearly just how each nation has its own artistic sensibility, and there have been loads of times when a new edition has come in where our reaction has been “that’s a beautiful cover: but it wouldn’t work here”. What’s particularly striking for kid’s books is that the age-level implied in the graphics can vary so much: my favourite example is comparing the German, French and Italian covers for our book Sisters … No Way! And then the Slovenian edition came in and rewrote the rules.

Estonian cover

What brought this to mind today was a new Portuguese edition of Alice Again by Judi Curtin that hit the office today. Entitled As Melhores Amigas sao Inseparáveis (which translates roughly as Best Friends are Inseparable) , it is the second book in the series and shows that they have developed a lovely series look (see their cover for Alice Next Door) that is lovely, and utterly different to ours! I also adore the fact that they have a footnote explaining what hummus is (In the story, Megan’s mum is a health-food fanatic)!

I have to say that my favourite foreign cover of one of our books that really made me think “now why the hell didn’t we think of that?” is for The Wish List by the amazing Eoin Colfer in (wait for it) Estonian. Partly because meetings with Toomas Toorma, the publisher, are one of the highlights of any bookfair, but also because their elegant and beautiful cover is the perfect solution to the endless effort we put into finding a suitable cover for what is a great book.
Do take a wander through our cover gallery: there are lots of weird and wonderful things to discover …
Ivan