Children’s Books and Graphic Novels Lead the Pack at Venice’s Book Adaptation Rights Market

With its seventh edition coming to an end, Venice’s Book Adaptation Rights Market (BARM) is already eyeing the future. The three-day event – taking place during the Italian fest – is now recognized as the third most important annual rendezvous by the publishers, states Pascal Diot, head of industry sidebar Venice Production Bridge.

“It’s starting to be ‘the’ event for the publishers to attend,” agrees VPB’s Chiara Marin.

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“Before, I would go to all these book fairs and when I would mention Venice Film Festival, people would go: ‘What are you doing here?,’ ” she laughs.

As the demand for adapted stories increases, even more publishers and literary agencies were invited this year, including Taipei’s Dala Publishing, Emily Books Agency and The Grayhawk Agency. Due to popular demand, the event also decided to focus on comics and graphic novels, with the likes of Casterman, Glénat, Nathan, Tunué, Astiberri Ediciones, Dala Publishing or Frémok participating.

“Last year, when we asked people what they were looking for, they kept saying: ‘Children’s books and graphic novels.’ It’s a trend that’s still going strong,” says Marin. Mentioning Tunué’s “Games and Laughs” by Pera Toons, currently storming Italian bestsellers list.

“Next year, we will give it even more space. We noticed people are really asking about it. Not just when it comes to ‘classical’ films, but immersive content as well.”

“Villanueva” by Javi de Castro – described as “The Wicker Man” meets “Midsommar” – “The Last Queen” by Jean-Marc Rochette, also behind “Snowpiercer”, “The Biohardcore Civility Manual” and “Handjob Queen,” about Taiwan’s sex workers, were among the titles presented this year.

“Irena,” dedicated to Irena Sendlerowa, one of the forgotten heroes of World War II, “The Wind of Freedom,” set in medieval Sicily, and Sabrina Gabrielli’s “Invisible Colors” focusing on a girl that starts to “see the world in sepia” also stood out.

“The graphic novel market is growing at a frenzied pace all over the world. People are making more and more series and films based on comics, so this invitation from BARM is absolutely in line with the times,” says Emanuele Di Giorgi, managing director at Italy’s Tunué, also behind these two last titles.

“There is a great advantage to comic books: you can read them quicker, but also see the storyboard right away, suggestions for framing, dialogues and cinematography. Producers can immediately access this world and then speed up the whole process that follows,” he says. Also commenting on Pera Toons.

“It’s an editorial phenomenon, now the most-read author in the world not only when it comes to comics, but the whole middle grade market, [squaring off] with ‘Harry Potter’ or ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid.’ Now, he has developed a universe of characters and longer storylines, suitable for movies or series.”

While historical novels are going through a bit of a dry spell (“these adaptations tend to cost a lot, which lessens the interest,” says Marin), the event’s priority is to provide its accredited participants with “a little bit of everything.” Which is why the publishers don’t just bring one title to Venice – they bring their whole catalog.

“We want to offer a lot of range so we are inviting smaller publishing houses too, ones that specialize in genre, for example,” says Diot.

At the moment, BARM is not expected to grow exponentially. But its team is ready to try out new things.

“At first, the publishers didn’t know how to talk to producers and the producers were getting bored. But after years [of organizing the event], we are starting to see first results. Publishers are starting to understand what the producers are looking for,” adds Marin.

“Now, we introduced speed-dating meetings between publishers and immersive producers. It wasn’t the most popular initiative, but it has piqued some people’s interest,” she says, with Diot already wondering about the next edition.

“Maybe the focus will be on fantasy or children’s literature? [The latter] is certainly becoming more and more important, especially when aimed at teenagers. These books are easy to adapt. I think it’s because they are already written in a way that mirrors the narrative of a TV series. They are ready to be filmed, offering readers something more visual.”

Just like Netflix’s hit trilogy “The Kissing Booth,” argues Marin, based on a story by Beth Reekles which she self-published online. That being said, BARM won’t be opening up to self-published authors just yet.

“These hits are few and far between. If you want quality, you still need to go to an established publisher. We have to be careful about what we offer, because we want the producers to be happy.”

There are some success stories to prove it.

Editorial Planeta sold thriller “The Camp,” about young influencers stuck in the middle of nowhere, to be adapted for a platform series produced by U.K.’s Good Chaos. Feltrinelli sold Alex Schwazer’s “After the Finish Line” to Indigo Film and Lungta Film. Grandi & Associati granted a motion picture and TV rights option for Mario Desiati’s “Spatriati” to DUDE, while Malatesta Literary Agency sold “Ballad of Mila” to Minerva and Giuseppe Catozzella’s “Italiana” to The Apartment.

Finally, thinking of this year’s focus, Tunué sold the rights to comic series “7 Crimes” to Lotus Productions. Penned by Katja Centomo, Emanuele Sciarretta, Daniele Caluri and Marco Caselli, it sees each volume focusing on a specific crime.

“It was a good idea – Pascal’s of course – to hold Venice’s co-production market around the same time. This way, the producers were already here,” sums up Marin.

“You could say it’s always much easier to pick up a project that’s already in development. But when you start from scratch, from the book, it means you really believe in the story.”

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