Take a stroll through Charlotte Square on any given day during the Edinburgh International Book Festival, and it can feel as if you’ve stumbled upon the epicentre of the cultural universe.
On 25 August this year, for example, you might see Julian Barnes on his way to discuss art and literature with Tim Marlow, director of artistic programmes at the Royal Academy; or perhaps Edwyn Collins, off to talk to Ian Rankin about the recent documentary about his life, The Possibilities are Endless. Look, there’s Celia Imrie from Calandar Girls and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, promoting her debut novel. And isn’t that Stella Rimmington, the former head of MI5? She must be getting ready to talk about her new book on the arms trade.
With all of the above and many more gracing the hallowed Charlotte Square turf on August 25th, you’d be forgiven for failing to notice the arrival of Claire Wachtel, Eduardo Rabasa, Enrico Racca and Markus Naegele, along with four of their colleagues. Never heard of them? That’s OK, they’re not famous, and you won’t find them anywhere in the Book Festival programme. As far as the Scottish publishing industry is concerned, however, when they land in Edinburgh they will be the most important people in town by some considerable margin.
As part of a new initiative to help improve the profile of Scottish publishing overseas, Publishing Scotland – the network body for trade and development – is this year launching a new fellowship programme, inviting senior publishing figures from all over the world to visit Scotland and meet writers and publishers in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness.
Wachtel is a senior vice-president and executive editor at Harper in the US; Rabasa represents Sexto Piso in Mexico, Racca is from Italian market leaders Mondadori while Naegele is from Heyne in Germany. Also represented are Atria/Simon and Schuster in the US, House of Anansi in Canada, Font Verlag in Norway and Aufbau in Germany.
The fellows will arrive in Edinburgh on 24 August, spend the next day at the Book Festival and the day after meeting Scottish publishers in Edinburgh, before travelling on to Glasgow and Inverness. The aim of the fellowship programme is to “facilitate relationships, rights selling and exposure of Scottish books to an international market.”
Will it result in scores of Scottish writers who have hitherto only enjoyed success in the UK suddenly becoming international bestsellers? Almost certainly not. Still, if we’re serious about impressing some of the biggest cheeses in world publishing, inviting them over while the Book Festival is in full swing is a clever way to go about it.