A bright autumn publishing season is underway for Arctis Books USA, which debuted on these shores in fall 2020 under the shadow of the global pandemic. The sister company of NorthSouth Books, Arctis Books has offices in Hamburg and New York City, the latter being the home of Arctis Books USA. The imprint was founded to publish books created by authors and illustrators from Europe and across the globe, which have been successful in their home markets. Aimed at middle-grade and young adult readers, the list comprises fantasy, contemporary fiction, and new interpretations of classic titles. Arctis Books USA is distributed by Simon & Schuster.
Arctis (like NorthSouth and its European counterpart, NordSüd Verlag), is under the umbrella of the German holding company W1-Media GmBH. Jan Weitendorf von Hacht, the owner and CEO of W1-Media GmBH and the publisher of Arctis, noted that NorthSouth has been publishing picture books in the U.S. since 1989 (including Marcus Pfister’s perennially popular Rainbow Fish series).
“We are excited to be part of the U.S. publishing community,” said Weitendorf von Hacht. “The United States has always had publishers that were open and keen on publishing European authors, but most of them published books that had received awards for literary writing or that had become famous in Europe,” he said. “We at Arctis want to reveal a broader European variety of new and modern books that show a Europe of diversity, with a liberal, aware approach toward our shared contemporary life challenges.”
Building a U.S. Team and List
Helming acquisitions for Arctis Books USA is lead editor Joy Bean, who said that the new imprint will eventually be looking to publish American authors and illustrators, “with an eye to having those books work for our German market as well”; currently, however, the editorial focus is on publishing books in translation.
“Statistics have shown that the number of books in translation that are published in the U.S. vs. in Europe differs significantly,” Bean noted. “Publishers in Europe have a large number of books in translation on their lists and they are very open to the literature that the U.S. publishes. The number of books in translation in the U.S. is very small comparatively. What I am hoping we can do with Arctis is bring well-known and popular voices from outside the U.S. to American readers, so they will be able to see that while there are cultural differences, emotions and experiences truly are universal.”
Bean highlights another discrepancy between the children’s markets on either side of the Atlantic. Observing that European readers of all ages have been reading comics in various formats since they could first read, she added, “Comics, or what we in the U.S. consider graphic novels, are ubiquitous in Europe, especially what I’ve been able to see in Belgium and France. While the graphic novel format is only recently booming in the U.S. for children, Europeans have had this type of reading experience for their whole lives. We are actively looking at graphic novels for Arctis and hope to have them on future lists.”
A Propitious Start, Even in Rocky Times
As sales and marketing director, Heather Lennon has also helped shepherd Arctic Books USA through its initial publishing seasons. Lennon has held various positions at NorthSouth since 2008 and is currently that imprint’s director of sales as well. Despite the pandemic-related impediments to getting Arctic’s debut U.S. lists off the ground, she is gratified by the commercial and critical successes of many of the inaugural titles.
As examples on the imprint’s fall 2020 list, Lennon cited The End, a YA thriller about discovering the exact moment the world will end, written by Swedish author Mats Strandberg (who, she said, “has been called Sweden’s Stephen King”); and Odin’s Child, the first book in Siri Pettersen’s acclaimed Raven Rings trilogy, a fantasy featuring Norse mythology that is translated from the Norwegian and has been published in 13 countries. The trilogy’s second title, The Rot, was released this month, with the third to follow in spring 2022.
Additional October 2021 titles are the imprint’s first middle-grade release, Memento Monstrum by the German author-illustrator team of Jochen Till and Wiebke Rauers, presenting Count Dracula’s memoirs, filled with “plenty of hideous creatures”; All The Colors of Life, a gift book for all ages by popular Norwegian artist Lisa Aisato, which spotlights the ups and downs of life; and Robin Hood: The Shadows of Sherwood Forest and Erik the Red: A Viking’s Quest for a New World by German author Tilman Roehrig.
“The pandemic necessitated changes in our launch plans, but I’m cautiously optimistic about finally being able to get out there in person with Arctis in 2022,” Lennon said. “Putting books in people’s hands is my favorite thing to do and I can’t wait to see booksellers and librarians in person and really show them the Arctis titles.”
Weitendorf von Hacht also discussed the effect of the pandemic on Arctis Books USA’s debut (“It surely did not help!”) and its ongoing implications for children’s publishing. “From my perspective, corona, more than anything before, showed that we are all living in one world and should be open to different views,” he said. “We have very serious problems that need to be solved quickly that include all nations. Books can help kids to develop broader views, to increase awareness of our common problems and their causes. Arctis will always try to show what’s really important in life—through the words of our European authors and the pictures of our European illustrators. Bringing U.S. authors to Europe has been our work for decades—now it’s time to give some views back to the U.S. audience.”