Eileen Baker, Acquisitions Manager, spoke by email with Evelin Georgi, Head of Foreign Sales at Hatje Cantz Verlag.
How long have you worked at Hatje Cantz?
It seems that more and more European publishers are producing bilingual editions. What percentage of your program is bilingual, or has a separate English edition?
I have not actually counted, but I would say that about 10% are separate editions and 60% bilingual; so combined about 70% of the program.
I believe Edition Cantz and Verlag Gerd Hatje were some of the first German publishers D.A.P. began distributing in the U.S.A. How has having distribution arrangements with D.A.P. changed sales for your program?
Working with D.A.P. made our name and our books better known in the U.S.A., and thus sales increased over the years. It is very important to have a partner who knows the market and has a good standing within that market.
What factors does Hatje Cantz take into consideration when determining whether to have D.A.P. distribute a title in North America or not?
We distribute all our English language titles via D.A.P., with the very odd exception. Last fall we excluded just one title, which was a guide to a temporary exhibition in Germany with very strong local appeal. But otherwise, if a book has English text, D.A.P. will have it.
When shows have multiple international venues, how complicated can the coordination of sales rights be? How far in advance are these decisions made? Are they generally made at the Frankfurt Book Fair?
These decisions are mostly made during the negotiations for the catalogue production. The museums decide and calculate in cooperation with the publishers whether separate language editions will be necessary and saleable depending on the scope and importance of the exhibition, and of course depending on funds. This is done throughout the year. The Frankfurt Book Fair is a place to meet in person and to look ahead at upcoming possible cooperation.
When producing museum catalogues, do you routinely approach certain museums (or have long-standing arrangements with certain museums to co-publish their titles), or do museums routinely send proposals for your consideration? How many titles can you produce for one season?
We have some long-standing cooperation with museums like Fondation Beyeler in Basel, the Schirn Kunsthalle and Städel Museum in Frankfurt, Kunsthaus Zürich, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, and Neue Galerie New York. We receive many proposals, and now produce about 100 titles per season.
I imagine that some artists become closely involved in the production of titles on their work. Do you have any experiences working with artists that were particularly memorable or rewarding ?
In 2010, I was responsible for a blog on our Web site called "Making of a Photobook," where we documented the production process of Nadav Kander's "Yangtze" book (Worldwide 143632). The photographer, his gallery and his assistant were very enthusiastic and helpful and contributed a lot to the blog. Nadav Kander came here for the printing, and I took some pictures of him in the printing hall. He was very appreciative of the work we did for his book, and he and we were rewarded with a gold medal at the German Photography Book Prize and fantastic sales. The book is now on its second print run. The blog had about 6,000 clicks; I have no comparison, since it was our first one, but I am happy with that number.
What factors influence the number of copies you print ?
We base the print run on our experience with similar titles and the market situation: Are there other publications available on this artist? How famous/upcoming is he or she? What do the museum and our partners (for example D.A.P.) say?
What are some of the titles that are your personal favorites or that you were particularly proud to have produced under your imprint?
Two examples are the Sugimoto catalogue raisonné (I own a signed copy!) (Worldwide 30379 and 142635), a book of outstanding quality and beauty both in the work presented and in the design, printing and layout, and a small volume with watercolors by Marlene Dumas (Worldwide 63302), a very bibliophilic book that sold out very quickly and is now out of print.
What is the title that you felt was most under-appreciated, i.e., a title that you felt did not receive the recognition it deserved?
The first example that comes to mind (we have many others) is a book on Robin Rhode (Worldwide 68709), where we just now had to remainder the remaining stock. He is a South-African performance artist. The book was half cloth with an unusual layout and cover design, and I love his work. Well, we all here did, which is why we overestimated the market.
How do the U.S. and European markets for your titles differ? Are there any major differences in the reception of your titles by American vs. European audiences?
Our main markets are the German-speaking countries, Germany first and foremost, and then Switzerland and Austria. Here we are well established and have a strong presence in the book trade. In the rest of Europe and the U.S. we are less well known, of course. The main difference is the importance of an artist in Europe versus the U.S. One example would be our book on Walker Evans (Worldwide 33304), of which we sold most of the stock in the U.S.A., since he is much less known in Europe and Asia.
What are your thoughts on predictions that the e-book will replace the printed book? And is the future of art books in any way different than the future of other types of books?
We released our first e-book this week, and have several others scheduled for release throughout this year. All of these are text-based titles though, and I think that the market there will certainly grow in the next years. But I cannot imagine an illustrated art book in that format. This is really new territory for everybody. We are not ruling out the possibility of doing an exhibition catalogue as an e-book in the future. One problem that has to be solved first is the rights issue for the images.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing art book publishers today?
What we as a catalogue publisher feel especially are the cuts in funding of public museums. The blockbuster exhibition might be a phenomenon of just the past 10 to 15 years, but its time seems to be over already, since the costs for transport and insurance are enormous now. We hope that we will be able to continue making interesting and substantial catalogues that find their audience even if the exhibition is not spectacular.
We see more and more titles from American museums co-published with Hatje Cantz. Do you actively seek out these opportunities, or is this trend a consequence of an increasingly global economy?
We do approach American museums, but have also been approached by them, since the quality of our books speaks for us. We think it is a reversal of the trend of producing as cheaply as possible, mostly in Asia. Our books are printed and bound in Germany, sometimes in Italy or Belgium, and we see this "Made in Europe" and our reliability and craftsmanship as the main reasons for museums to work with us.
How important is a book's cover design or title to sales?
It is very important, since the book has to stand out among many others on a bookseller's table. The title is important to distinguish the book from others, and to inform on the content.
What titles are you particularly excited about in your forthcoming spring line or what might be upcoming for fall?
The "Surreal Objects" catalogue for the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt (Worldwide 808517) became ready this week. It is a lovely object in itself, with a velour cover and embossed silver title, and presents a selection of 180 sculptures and things produced by surrealist artists. And a book on contemporary surrealism: Amy Cutler's new book Turtle Fur (Worldwide 808559) will be half cloth and has been designed in close cooperation with the artist. Her show at SITE Santa Fe opened on February 5. Her work is so original and entertaining. We published her first book in 2006, and it sold very well, so I am expecting much from this second and bigger volume.