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• The volume sales of translated fiction books have grown by 96% since 2001 against a market which is falling overall
• Value of sales of translated fiction have risen from £8.9 million to £18.6 million between 2001 and 2015
• Translated literary fiction makes up only 3.5% of the literary fiction titles published in the UK, but 7% of the volume of sales
The Man Booker International Prize has commissioned Nielsen Book to conduct an unprecedented research project into the translated fiction market. Nielsen Book examined and coded the data on physical book sales between 2001 and April 2016. The findings show that the proportion of translated fiction published remains extremely low at 1.5% overall and 3.5% of literary fiction. However, in terms of sales, fiction punches well above its weight with translated fiction providing 5% of total fiction sales in 2015 and translated literary fiction making up 7% of literary fiction sales in 2015. On average, translated fiction books sell better than books originally written in English, particularly in literary fiction.
The translated fiction market is rising, against a stagnating general fiction market. In 2001 51.6 million physical fiction books were sold, falling to 49.7 million in 2015. However translated fiction rose from 1.3 million copies sold a year to 2.5 million. In the literary fiction market, the rise was from 1 million copies to 1.5 million.
During the period of study, literary fiction books were translated from 91 languages, from Afrikaans to Yiddish. The most popular source language was French, with 200,000 books selling in 2001, rising to over 400,000 in 2015. Sales of Italian literary fiction rose from 37,000 in 2001 to 237,000 in 2015, due in no small part to the Ferrante phenomenon. Sales of Korean books have risen from only 88 copies in 2001 to 10,191 in 2015, a reflection of the South Korea market focus at London Book Fair in 2014. As has been noted by the Man Booker International Prize judges, the languages of the Indian sub-continent are extremely under-represented with just a handful of titles published from Kannada and a fall in the number of literary fiction from Hindi available in the period from 686 to 299 titles.
To read the full press release from the Man Booker Prize, click here.
The 2016 Man Booker International Prizewinner will be announced on 16 May.
For readings of the 2016 Man Booker International Prize shortlist click here.