Taking Armenian literature to the world!

Elina Harutyunyan of The First Literary Agency, Armenia won the Sharjah Rights Connection Awards. Here, she shares more about the Armenian publishing industry.

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Elina Harutyunyan is a 20-year-old literary agent working for The First Literary Agency in Armenia. Starting from the age of 17 and being a senior at the American University of Armenia, Elina’s main job is to find foreign publishers interested in Armenian literature, promote the literature, be in constant communication with publishers abroad, and keep up with all the publishing updates going on in the world. More recently, she was awarded the Sharjah Rights Connection Award.

Here, Elina shares more about her journey as a literary agent. Excerpts.

On winning Sharjah Rights Connection Awards…

“I am truly honored and thrilled to have won the Sharjah Rights Connection Award at the age of 20. It’s a testament to the hard work and dedication I’ve put into promoting Armenian literature worldwide. I am grateful for the recognition and the opportunities it brings. This experience has motivated me to continue pursuing my passion and making a positive impact in my field, specially making Armenian writers recognizable all over the world. I want to express my gratitude to my supervisor who believed in me from the very young age and trusted me with this important and challenging work,” she says.

On Armenian literature…

“Publishing houses in Armenia have played a pivotal role in shaping the literary scene. They operate in diverse genres, from classic literature to contemporary works, contributing to the preservation of the Armenian language and culture. Cultural organizations and institutions have been instrumental in fostering literary activities. Collaborations between publishers and cultural entities have resulted in the organization of literary events, book fairs, and festivals. The recent years in Armenia’s publishing landscape reflect a dynamic interplay between preserving cultural heritage and embracing contemporary publishing trends. Besides, publishers, cultural institutions, and authors are collectively working towards ensuring that Armenian literature continues to thrive both domestically and on the global stage,” shares Elina.

Role of book fairs…

“International fairs are very helpful in introducing Armenian literature to the world as during the fairs I have an opportunity to have face-to-face meetings with our partners, which takes the business communication to another level. Besides, international fairs give opportunity to meet new partners, walk over pavilions of different countries, and explore publishers who are interested in Armenian literature. I have participated in the Frankfurt book fair for two times and at Sharjah publisher’s conference once which gave me real opportunity to speak with international publishers about Armenian literature. Audiences at these events, especially those interested in different cultural histories, tend to appreciate the unique storytelling traditions and rich history embedded in Armenian literature. Publishers and literary agents visiting international fairs are often looking for fresh voices and unique perspectives, making Armenian literature an attractive proposition. International fairs are crucial platforms for a literary agent in terms of cultural exchange and new professional acquaintances,” she replies.

Journey as a literary agent…

“I began my professional journey at the age of 17, and it has been an incredibly rewarding experience. One of the main advantages was the early exposure to real-world challenges, allowing me to develop practical skills and a strong work ethics from the start. While some might see my age as a potential challenge, I embraced it as an opportunity to learn quickly and adapt to various situations,” she shares. “Starting at a younger age provided me with a unique perspective and a fresh approach to problem-solving. I’ve had the chance to learn from experienced professionals who have been instrumental in my professional development.”

Chellenges faced…

“Of course, there were challenges along the way, but I believe they have contributed significantly to my resilience and ability to navigate complex situations. I’ve been proactive in seeking mentorship and professional development opportunities to bridge any experience gaps.

Overall, it has been an enriching experience, and I’m grateful for the opportunities that have allowed me to grow both personally and professionally,” tells Elina.

On translations…

“The primary goal of my job is selling rights of Armenian authors to the world. In a three years’ time, we have had over 20 books translated into different languages, and still 40 books are in the process of being translated. So, we will have them in the next 2 years. Some of the books that have already been published in other languages are: Hovik Afyan’s Red translated into English, Arabic, Romanian, German, French; Grig’s Jesus’ Cat translated into English, Russian, Romanian, Albanian, German, Macedonian, Iranian, Lithuanian; Mher Israyelyan’s I am the King of the World translated into in Arabic; Hrach Saribekyan’s The Sun of Twins translated into Macedonian; Anush Sargsyan’s Ano translated into Arabic; Gurgen Khanjyan’s Yenok’s Eye translated into English, Romanian, Arabic, Albanian; Gurgen Mahari’s The Burning Orchad’s translated into Romanian; Zara Babayan’s The Ones Born Again translated into Arabic; Hovhannes Yeranyan’s The Fatal Tour translated into Turkish, Iranian; Hovhannes Yeranyan’s The Angels of Apocalypse translated into German; Jesah’s Undead translated into Romanian;

Mkrtich Armen’s Yerevan translated into German; and also three books from Eureka! Eureka! series on Steve Jobs, Raymon Damadyan and Elon Musk have been translated into English, Nepali,” she shares.

Besides, negotiations are continuing with German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Greek and other publishers for the copyrights of the books. “I think adult fiction is the most demanded one, as the most of the translated books have been in this specific category,” she adds.

On India…

“First Literary Agency has indeed extended its reach to collaborate with publishers in India. Copyright of the books Red by Hovik Afyan, and Jesus’s Cat by Grig have been sold to Indian publishers. The translation is still in process, so most likely in the near future, we will have these books also translated and published in India in English and Tamil,” she says.

On role of literary agent…

“The role of a literary agent is multifaceted, requiring a blend of skills and qualities to navigate the dynamic landscape of the publishing industry effectively. Some key qualities that I believe are crucial for a literary agent include strong communication skills, negotiation expertise, industry knowledge and adaptability as the publish field is constantly evolving. A successful literary agent must be adaptable, staying informed about industry changes,” concludes Elina.

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