The International Market for Books

I attended a conference yesterday on the International markets for books organised by the Independent Publishers Guild of Great Britain and held in London. While it didn’t cover every single market in the world – how could it, I’d probably have been there for days – it examined North America, China, India, Ireland, Africa and the Caribbean, and Australia. Here is a digest of some of the key points I picked up.

The recession hit America hard. OK, so we all know that. As a result many publishers cut back their lists or put a freeze on new titles, but the feeling now is they have gaps in their lists and are starting to look at buying again, which is good news for authors and publishers. Key areas are crafts, leisure and hobbies, and children books. The other good news is that fiction sales are steady and USA publishers are still buying fiction.

The Australian market is growing both in volume and value. Australians are keen readers and heavy book buyers and have a thriving literary festival culture which is financially supported by the government. Wish I could say the same for the UK! There are festivals in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Brisbane with a huge writing festival in Sydney each year with over 80,000 attending. That is truly amazing. The festivals attract authors from all around the World. Print on Demand has just arrived in Australia and Australians are keen early adopters of technology so that, and the advent of e books, should make for some interesting developments in the years to come. There are lots of thriving independent bookshops in Australia which makes for a vibrant book market and publishers are interested in adult non fiction, children’s books and fiction, so a pretty comprehensive list.

Bookselling in Ireland sounds fascinating and fun. Again, like Australia there is a flourishing independent book selling culture with many small chains and small individual booksellers. All Irish children need to buy their school books from shops, rather than the state buying and providing them as in Britain, which means that people go into bookshops from a very young age (4) and therefore are not intimidated by entering them in adult life, which is often the case in the UK. Irish publishers favour Irish authors and so too do Irish readers, but there is still the chance for both fiction writers and children’s authors to sell their books in Ireland. If you have any past or present connections with Ireland then you should exploit it to promote your books and to get publicity. There are many radio stations, local and national, and as the Irish listen to a great deal of radio this is an excellent medium to spread the word about your book/s.

The Indian economy, like China’s, is still growing, so can present opportunities, although the markets in both these countries and Africa are fraught with piracy issues. In India there is increasing interest in buying fiction along with an insatiable appetite for business books, educational and children’s books. The major UK publishers, and some independents, all have a presence in the publishing capital of Delhi.

With regards to the Chinese market, rights deals was discussed rather than exporting British titles to China, which is understandable given the uniqueness of this market. I sold rights to two of my communication books and a business book by one of the authors I used to publish.  The transaction, though not worth a great deal of money, went very smoothly.

Here is the finished product - it's called Be a Champion and was taken from my books: Being Positive & Staying Positive and Communicating with more Confidence' and Brian Lomas's book Stress and Time Management

In China the print runs are modest, the prices are low and piracy happens. It takes time to build up relationships and breaking into this market should be viewed as a long term strategy. China likes fiction, especially best-sellers and those novels that have been turned into films. They also like business and personal development books, lifestyle and children’s books.

Finally Africa and the Caribbean. Africa is a vast and diverse country with infrastructure problems and civil unrest in many countries. However, there are some hidden gems in the book market if one searches for them. Markets vary enormously depending on the economic climate. Sales to Botswana are almost ninety percent down for one publisher because of diamond mine closures while markets in Madagascar, Mozambique, Rwanda and Uganda are coming up, as is Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Senegal. In the Caribbean the book market is heavily influenced by America with American titles preferred over British. Both Trinidad and Belize with their oil are growing countries and potential markets for the future.

All in all it was an interesting day and a fascinating insight into the book buying culture of these different countries.