Welcome to our latest instalment of Meet the Texters!
Today’s Texter is Khadija Caffoor, Text’s Rights & Export Coordinator. She is a part of a small but mighty team, negotiating with international publishers and brokering audio and film rights, and is instrumental in the expansion of Text’s export business in the UK and US. Read on for insight into this jetsetting, hard-working Texter’s life and some excellent rights-related tips for authors!
What are you reading for pleasure (if you have the time)?
I’m late to the party, but I just read The Power by Naomi Alderman and Maggie O’Farrell’s I Am, I Am, I Am, which were both brilliant. I ambitiously decided this year to read my way through all of Dickens, and am currently on Little Dorrit. I also like to work through the Text backlist as well as the Text Classics, and, at opposite ends of the scale, Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist and Sumner Locke Elliot’s Careful He Might Hear You were my favourite two of the recent pile. So those are for pleasure, but I suppose since they’re Text books, they’re kind of work as well…
What made you set your sights on working in book publishing?
I remember the moment when it first occurred to me that there were people responsible for bringing books into the world—that all those matching little puffins on the spines of my books actually meant something. I’ve wanted to be part of this process ever since that childhood realisation! And it’s just as exciting now, having my shelves filled with all these matching lower-case Ts.
Tell us about a highlight and a learning curve (read: excruciating) moment in your time at Text?
The highlight is a tie between swapping poodle photos with Peter Temple (‘What a great dog’—Peter Temple) and my trip to the incredible city of Seoul (#HeartAndSeoul) for the book fair there last June. As for my most excruciating moment, let’s just say it involved an important meeting and an alarm clock failure!
You get to attend all the book fairs. What ingredients make up a successful fair for a participating book publisher?
Lots of meetings, hard work, great books—and fun! Having such a strong list of titles, as we do here at Text, is a big part of it. And it is really exciting to meet people from around the world and get a sense of who they are and what they like to read. Meeting with as many people as possible and building strong relationships is really important at book fairs, as is being aware of international book trends and reading cultures.
What are the best parts of book fairs?
I once sneaked in to a Mexican-themed party – I tagged along with someone I’d met earlier in the evening and ran inside while the hosts were looking up names on the guest list. It ended up being the hottest party of the week, so I was pretty pleased with myself! (It definitely had the best churros and margaritas of the week). I also invited myself into a coffee meeting with author Herman Koch, which was a real highlight (for me, probably not for him).
You work closely with authors. What are the most important things to remember when you’re representing their work?
Not becoming tongue-tied in the face of your literary heroes! Genuine enthusiasm for the prospect of bringing good news to an author, working hard to make that good news happen, and being able to speak passionately about a book that you believe in to make other people believe in it too. Every author has trusted us with something special – it’s a privilege to be their book’s international spokesperson.
What is the key piece of advice you would give an author considering a rights offer from a publisher overseas?
Firstly, celebrate! Then, look at who the publisher is, and get a sense of what kind of home they would be for you and your book by checking out what other authors are on their list. You might also want to speak to them about their plans for your book – it’s always nice to hear other people’s enthusiasm! Of course, the details of the offer are important, so look at the proposed royalties and the contract terms and make sure you understand and are happy with anything you agree to.
Which Text book would you most like readers to (re)discover?
The Year of the Hare by Arto Paasilinna. This book answers my ultimate ‘what if’ – what would happen if you left your ‘real life’ to go and live in the wild with your poodle? That’s what journalist Vatanen does when he injures a hare with his car and decides to go off into the forest to live with it while it recuperates. Cue much hilarity in this escapist, grown-up fairytale. Also, now I really want to go to Finland.
So who else wants to work in rights so they can jet-set around the world, hobnob with all the authors and pitch fantastic books to other publishers? Do you think she’d swap with us for a month or two?
And until next time,