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It Doesn’t Matter What You Wear Just as Long as You Are There

Tomorrow it begins. The parade of meetings that lead up to the Frankfurt book fair in October. Editors from all over the world come to New York in their hunt for new books. During these meetings, we schmooze about publishing, we find out what books are working in their countries, and we pitch our clients, hoping to find a British, German, Japanese, etc. sale. We have a rights guide that we’ve created with a description of the book, jacket, and author bio.

I’ve always loved meeting foreign publishers and editors. In the first place, they usually have really great glasses and rings, lot of index finger and thumb rings in particular. Sometimes enormous stones of lapis or onyx. Next, the women usually wear great wool tights, and the men usually wear smart suits that fit well. Then, there’s remarkable perspective they offer….on us. Why some American books travel and others don’t. What books are popular in various countries and how they are marketed. I love the feeling that all over the world, editors are basically doing the same thing, that the number of people is small, and the industry intimate.

Last, there is nothing quite as satisfying for a writer than seeing his or her work in translation. Or for the lucky few to have a whole shelf of foreign editions. I once dated a writer who framed all the jackets of his foreign editions.

Would you find that fetching or obnoxious?

37 Responses

  1. Fetching.

    I am still thrilled with myself when I can accurately translate a phrase – nay, a word – into Italian or French or Spanish. Or Latin, for that matter, and I purportedly teach the subject. I remember the first book I bought in another language because I was able to read it in its native form, and I thought of myself as fetching at the time. Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler. I remember the bookstore, the lighting, the smell…

    My own book jacket in another language? Oh, that’s…that’s just…ooooooh…well, that’s my writerly wet dream.

  2. Obnoxious, if it was someone else. Fetching, if it was me.

  3. i’d have them laminated and assembled into a mini-photo album that i could carry around in my purse and pull out in the line at the grocery or when i ran into old high school classmates at Target.

  4. My new memoir is being published in China. Damn right I am going to frame that cover when I get it!

  5. Fetching, so fetching. I’d clear a wall for them.

  6. Well… I don’t date guys, and anyway I’m married, but let’s say I can imagine the situation.

    I would find his taste in interior decoration questionable. Off-putting. Icky. There’s an ick-factor there. I wouldn’t be surprised if he spent a lot of time in front of the mirror, getting the look right. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a mirror on his bedroom ceiling. And white shag carpeting. Wall-to-wall.

    • And his teeth are suspiciously white. He’d shave his chest but is enamored of the way the hair curls around the neckline of his red silk shirt.

    • Agreed. Of course, if it was me, I’d polyurethane those suckers to my hard wood floor, putting a spin on the fact that my kids walk all over me as it is.

  7. Fetching, dahling….

  8. The idea of having a date is almost as distracting as my curiosity to the manner in which these jackets were framed. I’ve created “brag walls” for many corporate clients that, in their totality, were a flattering life mosaic.

    Now, if those jackets each had their own spot light and were placed over his bed, THAT would be another matter!

  9. Fetching in the bathroom, obnoxious in the living room, untenable in the bedroom.

    • Ha! Shanna, fantastic.
      I’m picturing a red room, with a mirror over the bed to reflect the photos hung in a grid on the opposing wall. The covers are framed and interwoven with author jacket photos. Classy.

  10. That would really depend a lot on the person. I remember watching the Country Music Awards when the band Alabama won one of their awards, maybe their first one. They were so enthusiastic and jubilant, it lifted me.Draw me in, include me in the joy, I find it fetching. Use it to distinguish your successful self from my unsuccessful self, tedious.

  11. I would be green with envy and have to fight not to show it.

    I’ve seen small slivers of the publishing set and It’s true they are heavy on the glasses and pendants.

  12. Me? I’m the crawl space. I’m the silence that loves all idiots, for they give me free rein to fetch and throw. A din of miraculously peaceful pleasantries. A den of kittens, no doubt. Fagin twisting his will into the wind. And the writer, creating worlds for which people barter, must, my god, I can only imagine, feel a little confident and self-assured. The world, as you know it, is just as it should be.

  13. If something I wrote was considered worth a foreign translation I’d tattoo the covers all over my arse. I’d be that impressed with myself. Fetching.

  14. Last year I met a historical romance author. In her office she had a bookcase with copies of different versions of her books – foreign translations, large print, etc. I loved looking at them and that she had them there – in her office – made sense to me. That I found fetching – I’m less convinced about framed book covers (subject to Sherry’s point above)

  15. Totally fetching! I’m surprised by the negative comments. Book covers are art. And if the titles are in foreign languages, they wouldn’t even be obviously self-referential, would they? But they would belong in the office or writing room, where the work was done.

  16. A tiny bit obnoxious. I have Chinese and Italian editions of my first novel. They’re just crammed in my bookshelf between the cookbooks and the regular stuff. I do have some empty wall space though…

    • Bonnie, I hope you’ll at least stack those editions with the original novel in such a way that they are noticed as a polite, celebratory arrangement. Save the wall space for the awards!

  17. Yeah, I’d have’em framed but I suspect my wife would suggest they would look really nice hanging in the bathroom. I went through a similar situation with her when we married and merged our furniture. Mine really looks great in the garage.

  18. Fetching. Give that dog a bone.

  19. Probably obnoxious but I’d totally do the same thing. Books are beautiful.

    So, Betsy, please tell me – what are some of the factors that affect whether a book sells in the US and not elsewhere? And what it is that makes a book a universal success. Sounds very interesting.

    • The number one predictor of whether a book will sell abroad is how much a publisher paid for it in the U.S. and/or how well it does. Best sellers and prize winners tend to make their way across the world with the greatest of ease. After that, it’s really country by country. I just met with my Japanese agent and some recent top sellers include: Erotic Capital, Lady Gaga, What I Wish I knew When I Was 20, Little Bets and Rafa.

  20. Did he have shelves full of scrapbooks too?

  21. The literary equivalent of posting a picture of himself shirtless on a dating site, flexing in front of his Porsche. Obnoxious, but will probably get him the attention he wants.

  22. I would like it. I miss cover art. I’m having a cover designed for my e-book and I will probably get a print of it, just to have it.

  23. i’d take down the rejection letters wallpapering my front hall and replace that collage with a tastefully framed cover of my first book, any day.

  24. I’m into confidence with a hint a modesty. If he let me discover them for myself (I always check out the artwork) I’d be all his.

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