Books are big export business for the UK but US chipping away at UK Export Market

According to figures produced by HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs) books and printed matter account for the 16th largest export sector trading outside the European Union out of a total of 97 different categories of goods which include drinks and spirits, mineral fuels and inorganic chemicals, organic chemicals, stones and jewellery, machinery, nuclear machinery, vehicles and aircraft..

The total year to date value of books and printed matter exported, excluding April 2010, accounts for just over £365m. This compares to the total year-to-date value of the UK’s trade-in-goods exported, which was £26.3bn. For April alone, books and printed matter accounted for nearly £103m-worth of exports, out of a total of £9.7bn. It's nice to think authors are doing their bit for the British economy!

The Publishers Association (PA) said the figures "provided a rosy picture in comparison to the overall export trade", having grown 2.49% in April, while the value of overall exports decreased by over 4%. Simon Juden, chief executive of the PA, said,"UK publishing has always punched well above its weight in export terms, exporting more than any other media sector, and it’s pleasing to see this excellent performance continuing."

Meanwhile it's reported that US publishers are increasingly seeking rights to territories that are traditionally the preserve of UK publishers, in lieu of global deals.

India is top of the contested territories, while Singapore, Malaysia and South Africa are also significant. In most cases, US publishers seek non-exclusive rights, meaning that although UK publishers can still export, they must compete on launch dates and price.

William Morris Endeavor Entertainment agent Cathryn Summerhayes said: "There is a noticeable move towards American publishers hoping to buy world rights in the first instance, and when unable to do that, to ensure India and South Africa, and smaller territories like Singapore and Malaysia."

She said Americans were "wising up to the fact it's a lucrative market" given difficulties in the UK and US home markets. "With territories where we are seeing decent sales growth, like India, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, it's important that rights are granted to the publisher who is best placed to exploit them. Historically that has been UK publishers and for the time being that will continue to be the case."