Bringing an Israeli children's book to America

by Rina Amir
(Sunnyvale, CA)

Sharing a children's book written in Hebrew and published in Israel.

I'm a stay-at-home mom. I recently found an incredible children's picture book, inspired by Dr. Marshal Rosenberg's Center for Nonviolent Communication, on emotional intelligence.

The book is written in Hebrew and was published in Israel 10 years ago. It sold 100K copies there.

I (and my kids) love this story so much that I decided to bring it to the U.S. and got the author's permission to find a publisher. I've also arranged for the author to come for a tour with a play based on this book, and had a huge success.

The play toured North America (from Canada to Los Angeles) last month, and people are asking me about the book - especially teachers and therapists. I've already translated the book and have a pretty decent version.

Naturally the illustrations are available from the Hebrew book. Due to the play, I also have some songs to go with it.

The author has published 8 more books in Israel (and 3 more plays). So I am expecting this book to be first of many.

I am facing a great task that I am very passionate about and am wondering: where do I start?

I realize that the children's picture books publishing world is tough to break in. Any advice about how to break in with ease?

Thanks in advance,

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Hebrew to English, Israel to America
by: Steve B. (webmaster)

Hi, Rina. It's great to hear of your success! (And thanks, by the way, for purchasing my children's behavior books. I'd be eager to know what you think.)

With a caveat that you should never EXPECT to "break in with ease," my first thought is to approach agents rather than publishers, and to be fully able to communicate the things you have going for you, namely that you're representing a successful product with an established platform.

Your product is a book that sold 100,000 copies in a small country. Impressive! Additionally, there are 8 more books to follow. And, presumably, you have the rights - I'm assuming this is the case - to translate them into English. (Hopefully you're the only person with those rights and can prove it!)

"Platform" is a big word in publishing these days. To my mind, the best way to define it is, "possess an existing audience." In other words, can you sell copies of the book, because publishers like authors who do that for them these days!

Your platform consists, I would think, of Dr. Rosenberg's existing audience, his website (which looks substantial), and all those teachers and therapists - the audience YOU'VE established. I would try to accumulate figures - primarily on those first two - that sound impressive.

Just the fact of your having marketed the play here speaks well for your ability to reach an audience.

These days, I'm afraid, that platform is as much - or more - important than what a publisher thinks of your execution of the book. Here's an example:

I know an aspiring author who was recently contacted by a publisher. She was told she was one of 20 authors being considered as one of the 10 whose books would be published next year. "Tell us how you're going to market the book," they asked.

It's a disturbing thing to hear for the purists among us, but it's reality. It could even be that your best chance to sell your translation is without showing it!

Get your facts together, study the markets for related books, then start contacting agents. I always advise researching agents, THEN contacting them just a few at a time. Make a study of your querying process, rather than just contacting a ton of agents at once. You want to be able to learn from failure, rather than ruin your chances with every agent at once!

Well, that's one man's opinion. Please let us know how it goes!

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