Reports compiled by Tom Chalmers, Managing Director at IPR License
Historically, the rights business has long been conducted through established personal and business relationships, but in recent years technology has come to the fore to help break down many barriers for publishers, agents, scouts and rights holders alike. It’s fair to say that advances in technology, including global rights and licensing platforms such as IPR License, social media, email have made it easier than ever to engage with new audiences, affiliate businesses and strategic partners all over the world.
The knock-on effect is the creation of greater opportunities for publishers and authors to secure international publishing deals as well as a simpler buying and selling of rights, licensing agreements and permissions process to secure advances and on-going royalties across a variety of territories. However, despite technology bridging many of these gaps, it remains clear that individual territories will always have their own idiosyncrasies, quirks and foibles which means that the more we understand, the more doors that can be opened. With this in mind we are embarking upon a regular feature where we speak to IPR License members, literary scouts and rights professionals across the globe for a snapshot of how markets are performing and highlighting any current trends.
This month we’re focussing on North America, Denmark, Italy and South Africa.
North America: Increasingly Risk Averse
Jen Barclay, freelance editor, writer and rights agent, evaluates the North American publishing scene:
As in many markets, what we’re seeing in North America is the big houses merging lists, letting top editors go and dismantling old imprints. This has resulted in lots of recent movement – all because the market is changing with e-book and online meaning everyone has to be sharper and hungrier than ever and no-one really knows what’s going to sell. I’ve seen an author be thrilled to be wooed to a big house with a big advance, and then baffled to be abandoned as the list is closed and the staff move on. It’s expensive to launch a book, and there’s a lot of competition out there.
Acquiring editors are hungry to see new things but then decide pretty quickly if they can make a splash with it. It’s easier for everyone if a book has a high-profile international launch. No-one wants to launch a book that you haven’t heard of before.. Even the big Canadian houses say it’s hard to take on a British novel unless it’s actually shortlisted for the Booker.
So, everyone wants the next big thing — something special. In terms of fiction, as always happens of course, there is a certain amount of jumping on the bandwagon of the last big bestseller. But apart from that everyone wants a novel that grabs you, one that the whole house goes wild about, including sales and marketing. They want a clever concept coupled with great writing, stand-out characters, and a book that crosses over from literary into commercial for the widest possible appeal.
Smaller houses have to be increasingly careful about what fiction they take on as it’s so hard to get break into the market, so they’re looking for interesting non-fiction and memoirs that have international appeal, especially those that appeal to women who remain the biggest buyers of general trade books.
Denmark: Small Market Enables New Initiatives
Carsten Sennov, managing director at Good Adventures Publishing takes a look at the Danish marketplace:
With 5.6 million people and English as our second language, the Danish market should be considered from a global perspective to be a relatively small marketplace for translated books. Despite Denmark being on the international top 10 list of heavy technology users (IT-maturity), print books have long dominated with ebooks occupying only a very small percentage of the market. However, in 2013 it looks like ebooks will finally reach a 10% market share even though actual revenue generated will be closer to 5–6% due to lower pricing. Besides the general technology penetration (mobile reading devices) in the marketplace, ebook sales are also being driven by several new initiatives like fixed monthly reading fees (subscription models that offer unlimited access) and lending/renting ebooks through libraries, supported by some of the largest Danish publishers. It looks like this market will continue to develop and grow at a strong rate.
In the printing industry a couple of Danish-based companies are really leading the way by investing heavily to become one of the foremost areas of print within Northern Europe. As a result, from a cost perspective, more and more Danish publishers see no need for selecting printers outside the country and digital printing has become a strong export contributor to the Danish economy.
Like many countries, the book selling channel/bookstores are really struggling and the numbers are declining yearly. With high IT-maturity, many books are sold online forcing the bookstores to try to find new ways of getting people into their shops. Books being sold through supermarkets only add to the challenge for existing bookshops and there is no doubt there are major challenges and also interesting times ahead for the Danish publishing industry.