Lilla Piratförlaget

This article is in part based on an interview with Erik Titusson in April 2021, conducted by Annika Johansson & Sara Van Meerbergen.

Lilla Piratförlaget is a fairly young publishing house and it was launched in 2011, specializing in children’s and young adult literature. One of its objectives is to seek out high- quality literature in both Sweden and internationally, according to Erik Titusson, publishing director of Lilla Piratförlaget. In 2015, Lilla Piratförlaget merged with the publishing house Gilla böcker, both being small independent publishing houses, and at the moment they publish some 30 titles annually. Every published book is dealt with as a unique book project where every step of the way is decided on individually; the publishing process is never standardized which is an approach more common in smaller publishing houses than in large ones.


Before Titusson launched Lilla Piratförlaget, he was working as administrative director for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA). The ALMA is an award initiated by the Swedish government in 2002 open to a particular author, illustrator or organization contributing to children’s and young adult literature in the world in memory of the Swedish children’s literary writer Astrid Lindgren. The first Laureates were announced in 2003 and as of 2021 there are in total 21 laureates out of which 3 are the organizations PRAESA, South-Africa, Tamer Institute, Palestina and Banco del Libro, Venezuela that carries out reading promotion work for children and young people. The ALMA (and accordingly the Swedish state) is by no doubt aspiring to take the lead in promoting children’s literature in the world, not only with regard to the substantial prize money of roughly 450 000 euro but also by announcing the ALMA laureate every year at the Bologna book fair, the most important book fair for children’s and young adult literature in the world, where publishing houses come together to buy and sell publication rights.

Erik Titusson’s view on publishing has been greatly influenced by his former work at the secretariat at the non-commercial ALMA which gave him access to the jury’s meetings and their extended knowledge on international authorships and illustrators. As mentioned earlier, Titusson’s intention when launching Lilla Piratförlaget was to publish international children’s literature of high quality. For Lilla Piratförlaget, this entails focusing on high-quality literature from for instance the Dutch and German speaking language areas and in fact not on Anglo-Saxon literature. Two reasons are given by Titusson, first of all, literature from for example the Dutch speaking language area is more affordable for a small publishing house. Secondly, it is more in line with the literary taste of Lilla Piratförlaget.


The importance of the ALMA becomes clear when one looks at the back list of Lilla Piratförlaget. Lilla Piratförlaget publishes 6 of the18 award-winning authors (3 of the 21 laureates as mentioned above are organizations): Kitty Crowther (2010), Shaun Tan (2011), Isol (2013), Meg Rosoff (2016), Bart Moeyaert (2019) and Jean-Claude Mourlevat (2021). In addition, Titusson states that literary prizes is one of the factors when discovering new authorships and he also follows the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis and Hans Christian Andersen Award with close interest.

Transnational networks

From the list of ALMA recipients published by Lilla Piratförlaget, two of the authors are from Belgium: Kitty Crowther and Bart Moeyaert. However, the purchase of the publication rights of Moeyaert’s work was only made following the announcement that Moeyaert was the 2019 ALMA recipient. Nevertheless, Titusson was well aware of Moeyaert’s authorship through personal contact with his German publisher at Hanser Verlag and he had also read Moeyaert’s books in German long before he received the ALMA. Moreover, Bart Moeyaert visits the Bologna book fair frequently and Titusson had met him there several times. This conveys the consecration of authorships through literary prizes. In this particular case a literary prize was essential for the publisher to come to the decision to publish an author from a peripheral language area.

Titusson mentions the necessity for a publisher to uphold networks to be able to uncover new international authorships. By way of keeping track of each other’s back lists, publishers seek out other international publishers with whom they share certain characteristics and hence serve as a guideline when acting on an offer from a literary agent. When Lilla Piratförlaget acquired the publication rights for the French ALMA laureate in 2021, Jean-Claude Mourlevat, the French publisher wrote Titusson: ‘We already share many writers’. This gives a notion of how the publishing industry works.


The Dutch Foundation for literature and Flanders Literature, the state agents promoting literature from the Dutch speaking language area, are of great importance when dealing with literature from this particular language area. According to Titusson, they function as someone who offers you a second opinion on which book publication rights to buy, since they are non-commercial, very knowledgeable and therefore give trustworthy advice. Additionally, the possibility to receive translation grants and financial support for marketing campaigns from the aforementioned state agents can be crucial when investing in publication rights.

Titusson mentions a recently discovered authorship from the Dutch speaking language area: the Dutch author Anna Woltz. Agnes Vogt from the Dutch Foundation for literature had advised Titusson to get acquainted with this authorship which resulted in Lilla Piratförlaget publishing two of her books in Swedish translation: Talking to Alaska (Alaska) and Plaster (Gips). A third novel of Woltz will be published in the spring of 2022: Shark teeth (Haaientanden).

Annika Johansson is Associate Professor of Dutch at Stockholm University


Lilla Piratförlaget

Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award

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