Today we welcome Manuel Soriano from independent publishing house Topito Ediciones to introduce the publishing scene in Uruguay and the books Topito is publishing….
World Kid Lit: Manuel, thank you so much for talking to us here at World Kid Lit. Before we start talking about Topito Ediciones, where are you in the world? Could you tell us a little about the children’s publishing scene there? Is the sector thriving or are you facing any challenges?
Manuel Soriano: Topito Ediciones is a small publisher from a small country: Uruguay. So it’s extra small for us! Uruguay is in South America, located between Argentina and Brazil (both geographically and commercially), and it is a country with a vast tradition of writers and readers. As in most countries in this region, there are children’s publishers from the big media groups as well as a few local publishers. The size of the country (3 million) is in itself a challenge: production costs are high, yet there are not that many book buyers to aim at, especially if you want to take risks with your catalogue and publish books that you love but that might not be so easy to sell. One of the solutions we are trying to find is selling our books abroad, so we have opened the foreign rights window and we’re taking a look around!
WKL: Against the current backdrop, how does Topito Ediciones fit in?
MS: As you all know, these are not good times for publishers. Bookstores have been closed or reduced for many months. To deal with this, we tried to tighten our relationship with our readers through social media. We have made many online activities based on our books and invited kids and parents to join, especially during the period when schools were closed. For this, the public digital library (Plan Ceibal) has been of great help, since any kid can have access to ours and many other e-books from home.
WKL: Could you tell us a bit about the history of Topito Ediciones? How did it all start?
MS: Topito Ediciones was created in 2012. Next year, we hope to be able to celebrate our 10th anniversary with a big party full of books, children, music and no restrictions. We started out really slowly, with two books that won a grant awarded by the Ministerio de Cultura of Uruguay. Since then, we have kept a steady pace, always in search of picture books that excite our imagination and make us happy to read and publish.
WKL: Do you specialise in any books in particular, either by age, genre, or style?
MS: We only make picture books. The only exception is an adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s Flush (it was so good we just had to do it). We specialise in strange books, those that many may say “This is not a kid’s book!” This wasn’t something intentional, but it turned out that way because those were the books we liked. Our biggest satisfaction is when someone tells us that both kids and adults had a great time sharing one of our books.
WKL: Topito was involved in the Invitation Programme at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2021. What did you do as part of this initiative and how has it helped your business?
MS: We were invited in 2020 and it was extended to 2021 because of Covid. It has been a bittersweet experience. It was a huge honor and recognition to have been invited, but unfortunately the Frankfurt fair couldn’t function normally last year and it seems it will to be hard for us to be there this year too. We have participated in lots of online activities and made new connections but we were looking forward to actually going there.
WKL: Have any of your books been translated into English yet? If not, where do you see the biggest hurdles?
MS: We’ve been close many times but we haven’t had our books translated into English yet… although into other languages, yes. Showing our books to the right people I think is our biggest hurdle. It isn’t easy for a small publisher from Uruguay in terms of resources, so the kinds of initiatives like World Kid Lit are a real joy for us. Some agents have told us that many of our books are not what English language publishers expect from a book from a South American country. The message was: give me something about your “local culture”; if we want a book about yoga or rock and roll, we can make it ourselves! Nonetheless, we refuse to believe that this simplistic idea applies to all publishers.
WKL: I’ve seen some copies of your beautiful “My first book of…” series by Pato Segovia, which I believe are some of your best-selling books. How would you describe them?
MS: They are our bestsellers and signature books here, and have sold rights to Argentina and Brazil, but we haven’t had luck finding a publisher in English. They are “strange” books for the kids’ market, since they really stretch the adult/kid boundary. But it’s this aspect, that at first glance might be considered a handicap, that our readers have really enjoyed about these books. The adults love them and the kids indulge them, and this way of turning things upside down produces hilarious family reading. I think they would be a hit in the foreign market, but they need a very specific kind of publisher, one that shares the same vibe.
WKL: What are the plans for Topito in the next year? Do you have new titles coming out soon?
MS: We have only two books coming up this in this last semester. One is called Inventario de dioses (Inventory of gods), written by myself and illustrated by Dani Scharf. It is kind of a mock-enciclopedia that compiles 15 gods that are worshiped in different cultures: from monotheistic religions, to mythic gods (Thor, Athenea, Dagda, etc), literary gods like Cthulhu, “modern gods” like Maradona, Wonder Woman, Nina Simone or Google. They are all treated with the same respect. The book opens with a few quotes that show us that history, myth, literature, and faith are more intertwined than we might think. We quote Borges, we quote Einstein, and we also quote Ricky Gervais: “There are about 3000 gods to choose from. If you believe in one god, basically you deny one more god than I do. You don’t believe in 2999 gods. And I don’t believe in just one more.”
The other book is by a brilliant Argentinian cartoonist. We can’t name names yet, but it will be his first kids’ book and we are very excited to work with him.
English samples are available from Manuel Soriano. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Discover Topito’s other titles and download their rights catalogue on their website.
Manuel Soriano was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1977 and has lived in Montevideo, Uruguay since 2005. He is an award winning writer and also works as translator, teacher and is one of the founding editors of Topito Ediciones.