flags of the world

The Heart of the Publishing World Depends on Where You Are

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief

flags of the world

Inevitably, your own flag flies highest. It’s natural.

To some readers — say those in the United States or western Europe — the headline on today’s feature story “Sharjah ‘Rights Souk’ Fosters Key Partnerships on Geographic Fringe” — makes sense: to them the Middle East, India, Pakistan, Turkey are all places on the “geographic fringe” of their world. To readers who reside in those places, the headline is likely to elicit a low (or even loud) grunt of dissatisfaction. “‘Fringe,’ they might say, ‘perhaps to you…'”

Still, it’s undeniable that the largest publishing markets in the world still reside in the West and if you’re going for sheer scale, in China. That said, to many publishers who reside on the periphery of those worlds, the priorities and needs of the biggest markets — America, the UK, France, Spain, Germany, China — don’t matter as much as getting your business deal with your closest business partner right.

For publishers in the Middle East, that likely means keeping the flow of information and trade going between Lebanon and Egypt and Saudi Arabia; if you’re in South America, you are likely just as  concerned with getting your books sold in Mexico as you are in Spain; if you’re in Singapore or Thailand or Vietnam, you might be targeting Indonesia rather than China (which can be something of a self-contained edifice); in the Ukraine, your biggest trading partner may be Russia, but Poland is booming and there is a close historical relationship to consider.

And to some countries, like the United States, ones just so large and culturally domineering, that entire world might seem like “the fringe.” After all, how often do we Americans really reference Canada as a key publishing business relationship, even though we share a 5,500 mile long border with our neighbors to the north? Frankly, not all that often.

Like mapmakers, we have a tendency to put where we reside at the center of the world. It’s natural: the fact it that for many, if not most publishers — not the global conglomerates that dominate the daily discussion, but the smaller practitioners who may be dominant in their own modest market — it’s the intra-national trade that is key. Getting your books across your home country into the more remote, hard-to-access regions, reaching new readers who speak your language and need your books, reaching the underprivileged or those without access to bookstores: that’s the lifeblood of your business and takes priority.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.