By Jaroslaw Adamowksi | @JaroslawAdamows
Heightened Sales in the PandemicThe acquisition of the Spanish audiobook publisher Sonolibro by Denmark’s Saga Egmont reflects the Copenhagen company’s expanding European influence as part of Lindhardt & Ringhof, the second largest Danish house.
Lasse Korsemann Horne is the publishing director of Saga Egmont, and he tells Publishing Perspectives that—not unlike the message from Niclas Sandin at Stockholm’s BookBeat—the Danish company has observed “a clear upward tendency in audiobook sales in all the markets we’re present in” amid the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many people listen to audiobooks when their eyes have to be occupied with something else,” Horne says, “such as driving a car or riding a bicycle. Even though people don’t commute these days” during lockdown conditions in many markets, there’s still a tendency to listen to more audiobooks than usual. Children’s books and young adult books are selling especially well. But all the sectors are performing better.”
Saga Egmont first entered the Spanish market in 2018, publishing translations of high-profile Nordic authors.
“The maturity of the market, the size of the Spanish-language market, and the focus on the Spanish-language market quickly made this a soon-to-be-focus-market for us,” Horne says.
“In the late summer of 2019, I had a drink with Alejandro Kahn, the owner of Sonolibro, and we talked about production of audiobooks for Saga as well as a possible acquisition of the entire catalogue. This acquisition would become the backbone of Saga’s Spanish catalogue.
“And that’s when we began to see the outlines of an idea: merging the Sololibro catalogue with the catalogue of the other big independent audiobook publisher, Audiomol, to form one big collection. This way, Saga could build an entire editorial team of Spanish editors much faster, around this super-catalogue.”
The value of this spring’s Sonolibro acquisition hasn’t been disclosed. But when asked about the takeover’s contribution to Saga Egmont’s business, Horne says it represents a foundation on which to develop “a new, professionalized Spanish audiobook publishing house” using the Danish company’s know-how to upgrade Sonolibro’s portfolio and to better use the available sales channels.
“We want to continue to work closely with the many great authors from Sonolibro and Audiomol,” Horne says.
“We’ll upgrade the look of the books and we’ll distribute them more widely than before to all sales channels worldwide. Spanish is a world language, there are readers for Spanish books all over the world. Of course, we want to add great new authors to our publishing house, too, including Castilian, Catalan, and Latin American authors, as well as international writers.”
‘To Make Sure Our Authors Profit’
Saga Egmont, Horne says, would also like to attract prime writing talent from the Spanish-language world.
“We want to make sure that our authors also profit from this development,” he says. “We do so with international distribution of their books, but also by translating thousands of books to new languages.
“For us, it’s great news that Penguin Random House and many Anglo-Saxon agencies, for instance, have pulled all of their books from digital flat-rate subscriptions. This gives us and our authors super platforms to reach a global audience with a lot less competition.
It’s like the old saying, ‘When the winds of change blow, some build fences, others windmills.’ We prefer the positive windmill strategy, and that’s what the acquisition of Sonolibro’s and Audiomol’s audiobook catalogues brings to Saga’s business; another windmill in one of the world’s largest markets.”
In the near future, Saga Egmont expects the Spanish audiobook market to develop around digital flat-rate models such as the ones developed by Swedish audiobook players Storytel and BookBeat, London-based Bookmate, and partly around credit-based models such as the one used by U.S. audiobook service Audible, says Horne. To illustrate the volatility of the global audiobook market and the potential synergies between the strategies of various industry players, Horne refers to Storytel’s recent expansion in South America and the positive impact his move has exerted on Saga Egmont’s activities on that continent.
Shortly after Storytel launched in Colombia, Horne says, “Saga sold its first batches of audiobooks there without setting foot in the country.
“The digital publishing world is full of possibilities and upsides. We try to optimize this perspective of things on behalf of our authors to generate new and more revenue and reach.”
The Danish publisher says it releases books in more than 30 languages. In addition to Denmark, some of Saga Egmont’s main markets in Europe include Sweden, Finland, Germany, and Poland, according to data from the publishing house.
More from Publishing Perspectives on audiobooks is here, more on the Danish market is here, more on the Spanish-language markets is here, and more from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here and at the CORONAVIRUS tab at the top of each page of our site.