In March Yellow Kite publishes The Wonder Down Under by Dr Nina Brochman and Ellen Stokken Dahl. Editor Tamsin English bought rights from Even Råkil, who is rights director and literary agent at the Oslo Literary Agency in Norway. We asked Even to write a piece for our blog about how he came across The Wonder Down Under and about his experience selling rights in the book all around the world. Here he recounts his story:
“Just over a year ago, an excited editor from Aschehoug Publishing House in Norway called Nazneen came to me with a manuscript in her hands, saying ‘Even, here is a book I believe you can sell widely.’ I had met excited editors before (with manuscripts that didn’t go on to conquer the world), so I admit feeling slightly sceptical when I asked her ‘What’s the title, what is it about?’ She replied, ‘It’s called The Wonder Down Under and it’s about the vagina, and health, and sex, and freedom and feminism and … and it’s fabulous, brave and new and fresh … and the authors Nina and Ellen are just wonderful, you’ll love them…’ Her enthusiasm was heartfelt, and so infectious that I started reading, and despite my limited knowledge about many aspects of the topic, I was inspired and decided I’d give it a try.
A couple of days later I had a meeting with the authors, Nina and Ellen, two medical students at the University of Oslo. Despite their young age, they had already spent several years working with sexual health among young people and minority groups, as both teachers and health workers. They had also written a blog called The Abdomen, which had become one of the most popular in Norway in a short time. Like most debut authors they hadn’t given foreign sales a thought, but said that if I could sell it to Sweden or Denmark, that would be great! So I had a sample translation made, prepared sales material and hoped I could find a Swedish and a Danish publisher who would be interested.
I had a first inkling of the potential for this book the night of the Norwegian launch event. Arriving at the venue, I saw a long queue of women (and some men), waiting patiently in the dark and snowy Oslo night to get in. 250 of them did. More than 100 were turned away. I saw Nina and Ellen on stage, greeted like rock stars, but talking intimately with, rather than to, their enthusiastic and ardent crowd. And I thought to myself, ‘This isn’t just Norwegian, it is not even typical Norwegian. This is about identity, knowledge, freedom and pride, and it has no borders.’ My ambitions for their book started to grow beyond Sweden and Denmark.
A couple of days later a colleague of mine, Annette, had a meeting with a scout in New York. They talked about the election, about Donald Trump and about The Wonder Down Under. The scout wanted to read the material, and two days later my inbox seemed on the verge of exploding. Editors from around the world started to ask for material, email me offers, call me in early mornings with pre-empts. The book had turned into an international phenomenon before I had made a single submission. Now at the beginning of 2018, the rights have been sold in 32 languages, from Japanese and Chinese to Greek and Brazilian Portuguese. The last one on board was Arabic. Along with the offer, the editor wrote ‘I am for a change!!!’
There are probably many reasons why The Wonder Down Under has been sold all over the world. Of course it helped with rave Norwegian reviews with headlines like Public Education at its best! and Vaccine against body shame, and that it became a #1 bestseller, but I think one of the many bidders in the auction for the World English rights sums it all up in a wonderful way: ‘I had sex education many years ago at school, but I often find myself googling, flipping through magazines or texting a friend to ask the very questions that are answered with such grace, humour, authority and non-judgemental straightforwardness in this brilliant book.
Yellow Kite publishes The Wonder Down Under by Dr Nina Brochmann and Ellen Stokken Dahl (ISBN 9781473666900) on International Women’s Day, 8 March 2018.
Even Råkil is rights director and literary agent in Oslo Literary Agency in Norway. Oslo Literary Agency is Norway’s biggest literary agency, representing authors in the genres of literary fiction, crime and commercial fiction, children’s and YA books and non-fiction.