Warming up for another Bologna
Another Bologna Book Fair coming up next week, and once again Merlin Publishers will be exhibiting some of its most exciting contemporary children’s and YA fiction – courtesy of the Fiera organisers who so kindly invited us to represent Maltese literature at the Fair.
Each year, the Maltese offering is stronger than the year before, and with a decidedly critical and down-to-earth eye I still feel grounded to say that Maltese children’s and YA literature is shedding its Cinderella complex. And about time too.
Content was of course never in doubt. We have had terrific Maltese authors for a very long time. Over the past few years, professionalisation in editorial skills and other pre-publication areas has introduced elements of fine-tuning and tightening that are turning already great manuscripts into international-level books.
Packaging has of course also moved ahead in leaps and bounds. Cover and production value-wise, Maltese books stand with head held high at book fairs such as Bologna – the world’s leading children’s book fair where the best and fairest of publications from around the world exhibit.
This year’s Merlin Publishers stand will showcase some of Malta’s best exportable talent: award-winning and bestselling children’s and YA authors Clare Azzopardi, Trevor Żahra, Loranne Vella, Simon Bartolo, as well as newer talent including Tricia Fenech Fabri and newcomer Audrey Friggieri.
Merlin Publishers’ next big project is of course its new e-imprint, launching later this year, and Bologna this year will be all about strengthening this exciting new venture. Meanwhile, we are always on the lookout for great new talent – last year’s Bologna Book Fair resulted in Merlin’s collaboration with amazing Spanish illustrator José Luís Ocaña.
So if any of you happen to be around the Fair next week, do stop and say hi!
Postmortem of a book fair
There’s nothing quite like a book fair to get a feel for what you readers are loving, what you want more of and what you’re intrigued by. Here at Merlin we’re always very excited - as are our authors - to know what the Merlin top sellers at the fair were. So, here goes:
No surprises here. We’d have been very surprised had this not been the case. Alex Vella Gera’s bestselling Is-Sriep Reġgħu Saru Velenużi is all that everyone is talking about. We couldn’t replenish the shelves fast enough with this one. A brilliant novel, its runaway success couldn’t have been more deserved.
Just launched for the fair, the concluding book in Trevor Żahra’s Kartaksan trilogy: Ħadd ma Jista’ Jsaltan jew Jieħu Tron li Mhux Tiegħu. This was our bestselling children’s novel by far. Żahra remains the unrivalled master and faithful young fans flocked to get their hands on this new book.
It’s fantastic - and a huge vote of confidence in contemporary Maltese literature - that all top 5 titles are our new book fair offerings. Third place for Clare Azzopardi’s young adult fiction debut with Frejp. By one of Malta’s leading and most admired authors, Frejp - a novel on a facebook-rape prank gone wrong - is as intriguing in its writing and narrative as it is in its innovative packaging, courtesy of Merlin art director Pierre Portelli. The stainless steel-mounted cover limited edition made this a collectors’ item.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is this fourth placing - hot on the heels of three giants comes a classy, polished debut novel by Philip M. Magri, Il-Poeta. At Merlin we loved it from the moment we first read the manuscript, but it’s heartening that so many of you seem to be sharing our judgement of this beautiful, lyrical novel. Read it now if you haven’t done so yet.
Fifth spot for a poetry book. Yes, you read right - almost unbelievable, but true. Trevor Żahra’s other new publication - Tqasqis - brilliantly continues Żahra’s efforts over the years to bring poetry to the young and not so young, making poetry accessible to children and fun to read. The innovative hand-made cut-outs by Żahra himself (hence the title) alone deserve an award. Żahra yet again confirmed his status as by far the single bestselling Maltese author, as taken together all his books (backlist and new) account for a not insignificant percentage of all on-stand sales.
Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2012
Just back from Bologna Book Fair. For the second year running, Merlin Publishers had a stand in the International Publishers’ Area, courtesy of the Book Fair organisers.
The Merlin stand featured some of our key newest titles, from Clare Azzopardi’s Ġużeppina and the De Molizz series, to Simon Bartolo’s young adult Deformity, and others.
Deformity was our success title of the Fair, with sustained interest from various publishers and editors, and ongoing discussions.
As usual, the Fair is a sensory overload of all that is the best and the cutting-edge in children’s books. Amazing - read: a-ma-zing - picture books, new directions in YA fiction, and more than any of us could process. Can’t wait for our 2013 publishing list to include some of this.