Hachette UK Sees Flux in Global Rights Markets

In Guest Contributors by Guest Contributor

Germany is a stalwart, while southern Europe suffers and Asia and emerging markets rise.
Jason Bartholomew is Rights Director for Hodder & Stoughton, John Murray Press and the Headline Publishing Group.

Jason Bartholomew is Rights Director for Hodder & Stoughton, John Murray Press and the Headline Publishing Group.

By Jason Bartholomew, Hachette UK

At the moment, the top rights market in terms of sales sales is very much Germany. We feel disappointed if one of our books does not sell in Germany. It is the one key market that provides the most robust auctions across a handful of genres, and the strength of the German market never seems to slow down. Long may this be true.

Outside of Germany, we take our cues for where book sales will be strongest based on what is happening in the world economy. For example, Italy and Spain were robust economies less than five years ago, and as a result, we would suspect both territories to generate a healthy amount of subrights income. Unfortunately, though, as the recession seems to have a stranglehold on southern Europe, so too goes the book trade.

Spain, in particular, we estimate is down 35% since 2008 in terms of the number of books published locally—therefore what they buy from UK publishers. The more peculiar market that is suffering is Holland. The Dutch economy doesn’t have the same recessionary problems of southern Europe, but the changes in the Dutch book trade have been well reported; we estimate our right sales in Holland are down by 40% from 2008. However, there is talk within the trade that Holland and Italy might soon see some daylight through the clouds.

The genre of books you are selling will dictate where the top market will be. If we have a strong non-fiction book across business, science, social science or “think books,” then we would expect China, Japan and Korea to lead the countries for expected revenue.

The Scandinavian territories traditionally lean more towards literary or upmarket commercial fiction and non-fiction. The Scandinavian markets are not paying huge amounts of money, but in the past year, we have noticed a bounce-back in interest for our books that had been absent in the previous few years.

The genres that seem to travel across all territories—and the dream in subrights is to sell one of your books in 20-plus territories—are reading-group fiction (that specific type of upmarket, commercial fiction that seems to resonate everywhere) and either a globally recognized celebrity memoir or the Malcolm Gladwell–type of soft business books that can seemingly publish everywhere from the USA to Armenia.

At the moment the recession, or even a fear of recession, continues to reverberate and have negative repercussions across the international book trade. Whether it is the wholesalers going bankrupt in one territory or the slow adjustment in other territories to the shift toward e-books, there is some general shakiness that we hope will steady over the next year.

On the flip side, we are seeing emerging markets that are exciting. Plenty of international markets are embracing e-books, and these countries are going through the same transitions and changes that the US and UK markets have already faced. Every year, like most rights departments, we try to find the emerging market where sales can potentially blossom. Brazil, China, Turkey, and Mexico seem to be growing in strength, and we want to focus selling to these countries with more frequency. Japan and South Korea are very established markets where are sales could improve.

The trick to rights sales, in general, is to develop strong relationships with as many publishers across as many territories as possible. Our goal is maintain the strength of existing relationships in the key territories like Germany, and at the same time be able to attend events like the Beijing Book Fair in order to develop very important new contacts in emerging markets.

If we can do this well, then we can hopefully find the right book to hit that 20-plus-territory mark.

Jason Bartholomew is Rights Director for Hodder & Stoughton, John Murray Press and the Headline Publishing Group.

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