Being a former publicity manager at Penguin Canada has proven to be an asset for debut author Ashley Audrain.

Described as a literary thriller, The Push is making waves globally, with Cairo’s publishing house Dar Altanweer snapping up the Arabic rights despite no sales history for the title or author.

Dar Altanweer’s partner Sherif-Joseph Rizk, reported Arab publishing industry news journal Nasher, hails the novel as. “a thriller that has the potential to become a classic of sorts – material for both upmarket and commercial audiences.”

The Push in the space of two weeks sold in more than 20 territories and languages, deals including Catalan, Croatian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Portuguese (EU), Portuguese (SA), Polish, Russian, Romanian, Spanish and Swedish, and is under offer in Serbian and Simplified Chinese.

The Push, Nasher notes, will be published in English simultaneously in the US and UK in early 2021, and Dar Altanweer expects to publish in Arabic at the same time, subject to the contract.

The significance of this story lies in the breadth of the rights sold at so early a stage for an author with no track record.

It’s not often we see Arab publishing houses jump in early with western titles of this nature – and we can in part put that down to local sensibilities – but the take-up of western fiction titles by Arab publishing houses is increasing.

And while this particular title’s pre-publication success is obviously driven by internal industry hype, Dar Altanweer understands that when this book hits the shelves the increasing awareness of and demand for western and global fiction across MENA (Middle East North Africa) thanks to social media and video streaming services mean this book will find plenty of eager consumers across MENA.

At the Sharjah International Book Fair last year the UAE’s Rewayat (@RewayatReads – part of Kalimat (@KalimatGrp)) famously announced the launch of the Arabic version of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian classic The Handmaid’s Tale, as one of eleven new translations.

The Handmaid’s Tale released in UAE as Arab book market globalisation builds

As we prepare to start the new decade it’s time for Arab publishers to take the global markets seriously, and for international publishers to take a closer look at the wonderful literature and culture on offer from the at first glance homogeneous and monolingual Arab markets that in fact are every bit as unique, exciting and diverse as, for example, the Anglophone markets.

This post first appeared in Publish MENA – the digital advantage #2