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International Trends: The Italian Market

Published on 29/11/2023

Illustrations by Advocate Art illustrators Maria Luisa Petrarca, Maria Lia Malandrino, Laura Borio, Elena DallAglio, Alessandra Fusi, and Martina Brancato

International Trends: The Italian Market
By Barbara Vagnozzi, Advocate Art, Artist Agent

Despite the demographic decline, Children’s and Young Adult Publishing is increasingly central in the overall landscape of Italian Publishing. In terms of sales, it covers 18% of what Italians have spent in physical and online bookstores and in large-scale distribution for book purchases. In terms of copies, this represents more than one in five books.

Illustration by Advocate Art illustrator Maria Lia Malandrino.

The Children’s and Young Adult sector is a good example of how small and medium-sized Italian publishers can express innovation, make their mark, and compete in international markets.

Growth is particularly notable in the segment of books for toddlers and up to five-year-olds, a market that Publishers are exploring more vigorously by offering new editorial products that must adhere to specific guidelines. Small and medium-sized Publishers, often independent, are an important core of this landscape, a vibrant sector rich in capable, innovative, and highly updated professionals who constantly engage with the international scene.

There are numerous opportunities for professionals in the sector to meet and exchange ideas, Bologna Children’s Book Fair is the largest international event for studying, exchanging, and discussing the Publishing world for these age groups. Other notable events include “Piu’ Libri piu’ Liberi,” the Roman fair dedicated to independent Publishing, held in the striking Nuvola, which gathers all the small and medium-sized Publishers, a significant qualitative resource in the Italian publishing landscape.

Illustration by Advocate Art illustrator Maria Lia Malandrino.

Lucca Comics and Games is a fair dedicated to Comics, Graphic Novels, and Gaming that registers significant annual growth in terms of exhibitors and visitors. The Turin Book Fair, Italy’s largest Publishing event, carves out increasingly larger spaces for children’s publishing. Other well-known and important Italian events include Book Pride and Un mare di Libri, just to name a few.

Crucial for professionals in the field are the numerous literary festivals dedicated to Children’s and Young Adult literature, where authors and illustrators take center stage, serving as important meeting grounds for a vibrant and active community. These festivals offer an unmissable opportunity for presenting new titles, both from emerging and established artists, and serve as a splendid means of communication with the public and schools.

Talking about Authors and Illustrators. Italy boasts a large number of highly qualified professionals who engage with international markets, often stemming from important educational backgrounds and high-level Illustration Schools, ready to tackle the challenges of an ever-evolving and innovative market. The immediate impression is that there is a significant gap between the professional offerings and the sector’s absorption capabilities, which are evolving but with limited investment opportunities.

Illustration by Advocate Art illustrator Sara Ugolotti.

Unfortunately, this is where the greatest incongruities are found. Some of the best quality and media-resonant Children’s Publishers are small independent realities who may not always have the necessary resources to meet the needs of qualified professionals and offer media visibility as the primary compensation. This is a sore point in a chain that could be truly appealing to many industry professionals, who often choose to work for foreign Publishers with larger investment capabilities.

Of course, this assessment does not apply to the entire landscape!

If we want to categorise the work possibilities for an illustrator in Italy, we can broadly divide them into sectors:

  1. Illustration by Advocate Art illustrator Alessandra Fusi.

    Advertising: Perhaps the most financially rewarding sector for image professionals, but demand is much lower than it was in previous years, mainly due to competition from image banks.

  2. Editorial/Newspapers/Magazines/Brochures: Qualitatively very interesting, economic potential varies from publisher to publisher.
  3. Educational Publishing: Very active, offering significant amounts of work, although compensation is often limited, with economic potential varying from publisher to publisher. The publisher’s reputation is always a guarantee of professionalism.
  4. Children’s Publishing (0-5): A lively and interesting sector with many new titles in every catalogue. Economic potential and quality vary from publisher to publisher. The publisher’s reputation is always a guarantee of professionalism.
  5. Children’s Publishing (5-10): A lively and interesting sector with many new titles in every catalogue, particularly rich in the number of early readers and simplified classics that have seen significant growth in recent years. Economic potential and quality vary from publisher to publisher. The publisher’s reputation is always a guarantee of professionalism.
  6. Young Adult Publishing: Lively and interesting, but illustrator work is primarily limited to cover art, which needs to be increasingly new and intriguing to attract a discerning audience accustomed to continuous exposure to contemporary imagery.
  7. Comics and Graphic Novels: Relatively recent in the Italian market, which was mainly accustomed to translating foreign volumes, mostly from French publishers. This sector is developing interestingly but is challenging for both publishers and illustrators, and not all publishers are ready to take on this challenge. Some make attempts with a few volumes that do not always become continuous series. There are some truly interesting publishers here as well. The publisher’s reputation is always a guarantee of professionalism.
  8. Stationery: is definitely an interesting panorama.
  9. Toys and games: are definitely an interesting panorama.

An important aspect is the quality and professionalism of Italian illustrators, many of whom are part of the ranks of the most significant international Agencies. To name just a few of the wonderful artists collaborating with our agency: Elena DallAglio, Laura Borio, Sara Ugolotti, Alessandra Fusi, Maria Lia Malandrino, Maria Luisa Petrarca, Beatrice Tinarelli, and Martina Brancato.

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