table at Frankfurt Book Fair

What It’s Like to Study Book Publishing in Germany

When I stepped onto the plane headed to Stuttgart, Germany, I had no idea what to expect. I already had a little experience traveling in Europe, and even lived in England for a few months, but Germany was completely foreign to me. I boarded the eleven-hour flight with only a couple months worth of Duolingo practice under my belt and a passion for experiencing new cultures. I had no idea that the next few months would be an incredible adventure I would never forget and that would open me up to a whole new world of book publishing.

Germany is home to one of the most important book markets outside of the US and China. It publishes tens of thousands of new titles each year and sells thousands of foreign translation rights to countries around the world. I couldn’t comprehend the scale of importance and dedication of the publishing industry in Germany until I witnessed it myself. Unfortunately, it can be very easy to miss the significance of publishing in foreign markets when it comes to living here in the US, especially since only about 3 percent of all books published in the US are translated works. Studying in Germany made me realize just how important these translated works are and how severely lacking we are in this area.

In Germany and the rest of the world, rights and licenses are sold back and forth between publishers regularly; Germany buys and sells titles from Spain, France, Russia, China, Poland, Italy, and more. In the US, publishers are mainly focused on selling rights to these countries rather than buying from them. This creates an imbalance when it comes to the spread of ideas and culture through literature, and it only further contributes to the ignorance that many of us Americans have when it comes to cultures outside of the US.

As I learned more about the book market in Germany and around the world, mostly due to the Rights and Licensing course I was able to take as well as a trip to the Frankfurt Book Fair (the largest trade book fair in the world), I became more and more interested in the exchange of culture through the selling of foreign rights. Before leaving for Germany, I wasn’t sure where in book publishing I would end up. My time at Ooligan had given me an opportunity to work in editorial, marketing, social media, and more, but I didn’t know if becoming an editor or marketer was the right path for me. However, learning about foreign markets and rights selling has opened me up to a whole new side of publishing that I never thought about before, and I am now considering a career in foreign rights after I graduate.

My experience in Germany taught me many things, including how to make friends with people when you don’t speak the same language. I met people from all around the world, explored different cultures, learned some German, and developed a new global view when it comes to book publishing. I can now truly appreciate how essential it is to bring a more international perspective to publishing here in the US and how bringing more translated titles from around the world to our publishing markets is vital to fostering understanding and empathy within American readers. Studying publishing in Germany has given me invaluable insight that I will cherish forever, and that I can now share with my fellow classmates and the next generation of book publishers to come.

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