4th Istanbul Fellowship Program: a great place to trade rights!

The 4th Istanbul Fellowship Program was held in Istanbul, Turkey from February 26-28, 2019. The event hosted over 140 publishers, literary agents, and other participants from 72 countries.


The Istanbul Fellowship Program was launched by Turkish Press and Publishers Copyright & Licensing Society (TBYM) for the first time in 2016 with a view to contributing to cooperation between Turkish publishers and publishers around the world and turning Istanbul into a copyrights market. This year was the 4th edition of the Fellowship Program, and India and France were well represented by 4 publishers from each country selected for the fellowship program. The program was a mix of presentation sessions, focus country seminars, interaction sessions with local Turkish publishers, literary agents and authors, and one-on-one professional meetings between the fellows to explore business opportunities and exchange ideas.

The programme…

During the three-day programme, the participants attended seminars and business meetings as well as working dinners with publishers from Turkey and other countries. Each participant was equipped with a table in a large space that was adjacent to the International Eurasia Book Festival. Special seminars included criminal literature, the status of children’s books in the world, independent publishing, regional publishing industry, publishing marketing and Latin American books market.

First hand experience…

Here, Pranav Johri of Rajpal & Sons, who was one of the participantsselected for the fellowship, shares his views on the same. “The fellowship was structured with seminars oriented towards learning and experience sharing and there were a lot of opportunities to meet- one on one. Within the fellowship there were official business meetings that we could set with each other. Before the fellowship, we evaluated the profiles on the fellowship portal to identify the people whom we wanted to meet. Besides, there was plenty of time to connect informally at lunch and dinners. Every night, a special programme was organised over dinner. The first night the dinner was organised inside the blue mosque which was a very special experience. The second night dinner was a cocktail where again we got in smallgroups. Here, I met a publisher from Turkey and currently we are in discussion with both buying and selling copyright. A few Turkish authors were also present at the dinner,” he shared.

Publishers profile…

On asking about kind of publishers present at the event, Pranav replied, “There was a very varied group of publishers present at the fellowship, including four from India. It was a mix of literary, academic and children publishers. Generally the sub groups formed through the fellowship were to an extent driven by the publishing genres. The literary publishers – found each other and started connecting and likewise did the children book publishers.”

“The overall experience was very good. The number of publishers that they have been able to attract from the number of different countries in just four years is quite impressive. Besides, Istanbul as a city is convenient for everyone as it is very central. We had publishers from the far east, South America, Europe, infact it was a very well represented group which I thought was very positive. Also I think the selection criterion they had for inviting the fellows was very good as they were able to select a group where in people could derive value from each other, form relationships and find value in each other,” he added.

Talking about his participation, Pranav shared, “The genres prominent for us for both buying and selling rights were literary fiction and young adults. Content focus being on- feminism, freedom of expression, cultural and religious diversity, which are topics relevant for India. These are contemporary issues faced around the world and a story well told will always travel.”

On business sessions…

The first session was Professional Business Meetings Rising as a New Trend in the Publishing World, with Ed Nawotka of Publishers Weekly as the moderator. The speakers included Muhammed A??rakça of Istanbul Fellowship Program and Claudia Kaiser of Frankfurt Book Fair. “The session also focused on how professional meetings are playing a bigger and bigger role in the growth of International Publishing and how it is helping publishers to connect with each other and discover each other. Earlier the International publishing scene was dominated by a few multinational publishers but the professional platforms are allowing independent publishers to find each other effectively,” shared Pranav.

“They talked about the selection process and how they tried to select a varied group — where everyone could find value in the group they had selected, keeping in mind the profile of the Turkish publisher. A lot of Turkish publishers focus on illustrated children books, so there were a good number of children book publishers at the fellowship to ensure there were enough opportunities for the Turkish publisher to find counterparts with whom they could work,” he added.

The event at large…

Talking about the event, Pranav shred, “In terms of organisation and logistics, everything ran very smoothly. But I think the portal could have been more detailed so that people can set the meetings in a more targeted manner and prevent any sort of disconnect. An issue that I faced was that some of the seminars that I wanted to attend were overlapping with business meetings and one had to choose either.”

Objective accomplished…

“The objective of the fellowship programme is to get publishers together, so that they can explore copyright buying and selling with each other. The way the fellowship was structured that goal was quite well achieved, there were a lot of MOUs on buying and selling copyrights. At Rajpal & Sons, we signed a few MOUs with Turkey and other countries, besides signing up two literary agencies from Turkey and US. Turkey has emerged as a new market for us and we are already in the stage of contracts,” told Pranav.

“I am hopeful that within this year, some of the rights which have been traded will materialise. Typically a good translation usually takes between 6-12 months and we are looking at translating the works in Hindi and English. There are two aspects to a translations — first, it should be true to what is being written originally and secondly it should read well. So, we hire a translator, language expert and an editor for all translated works,” he said.

What’s ahead?

“It’s a very fast growing fellowship and next year, they want to double the number of participants. I hope they maintain the selection criteria as they grow in numbers, so that the value of the Istanbul Fellowship Program remains intact. I wish them the best of luck.” shared Pranav.

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