This article in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) explains the logistics of Madonna’s foray into children’s publishing.
Madonna has never done anything small, so why should her first children’s book be any different? Her book, “The English Roses,” will hit bookstores in more than 100 countries in 30 languages simultaneously. This is a bigger launch, in languages, than even Harry Potter.
As expected when translating into so many languages, text expansion was a challenge:
The large number of languages led to some tricky moments for Editoriale Lloyd, because some translations needed adjusting to fit the space allocated around the illustrations — Nordic languages, for example, can be particularly long-winded. That is one reason why such complicated simultaneous print runs are likely to be confined to children’s books where a small amount of text is easily wrapped around pictures.
I found the logistics particularly interesting:
A plant in Ohio, for example, is printing all 750,000 copies of Callaway’s English edition for the U.S., as well as a Spanish edition and a French edition for Canada, both for subsidiary publisher Scholastic Inc. In northern Italy, Editoriale Lloyd SRL is printing copies in 18 European languages, from French to Faroese, the tongue of the remote Faroe Islands (pop. 47,000) northwest of Scotland.
Because of the hefty print runs, the individual publishers save money: the printers can get better prices for paper and the publishers save up-front costs connected with processing the illustrations. H. Aschehoug & Co., the book’s Norwegian publisher, expects to save at least 30% in printing costs on its initial 8,000 copies.
Apparently, the cost savings will make the effort worth it; of course, this all depends upon the book actually selling in mass quantities, which I’m not so sure is going to happen.